You may have noticed talk around a new, buzzy social media app called Clubhouse of late. With enough socialising and entertainment from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn combined, you probably didn’t give it much thought at first…until news of Elon Musk’s appearance on the app made you FOMO about not being on it.
Well, you’re not the only one. Earlier this month, the Tesla founder and world’s richest person pushed the relatively new drop-in audio app to its limit – maxing out the official stream with more than 5,000 users listening in to his talk with Vlad Tenev, CEO of Robinhood, the stock-trading app for amateur brokers.
Now that Clubhouse has your attention, you may still be confused as to how it works and why Oprah Winfrey, Virgil Abloh and the folks at Silicon Valley are among its fans. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Clubhouse?
Founded in March 2020 by Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse is an invite-only audio-based social media app that’s currently available for iPhone users only. It’s often likened to Twitter’s new Audio Spaces feature or Discord, for those in the gaming community (though some would argue its use has expanded outside of the gaming realm).
“Clubhouse is a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations — with friends and other interesting people around the world,” reads the app’s self-introduction. “Go online anytime to chat with the people you follow, or hop in as a listener and hear what others are talking about.”
Upon launching the app, users can find virtual rooms on a wide variety of interests spanning from the arts to tech to venture capitalism. Entering a room will allow a user to listen in or participate in the conversation with other users who are also in the room in real-time. Each room has moderators, speakers and listeners. Moderators control who gets speaking privileges and listeners can “raise their hand” to request to speak.
Nothing is saved on the app, so users have to join live or risk missing out on the conversation. This encourages people to spend more time on the app and adds a sense of urgency.
Why is it so popular?
In its early phase, Clubhouse banked in on the exclusivity factor by getting A-listers to try the app. Stars including Drake, Oprah, Tiffany Haddish, Jared Leto, Ashton Kutcher and Chris Rock were among the first names seen on the app long before Musk made his splashing debut.
Thanks to its high-profile celebrity community, the number of users has grown exponentially over the past year. According to a report, that number jumped from 600,000 total users in December 2020 to a whopping 2 million in January 2021. This sort of diminishes its “exclusive” selling point – which critics argue may lead to the app’s eventual failure – but its viral content and occasional surprise guest appears to be working tremendously well so far.
The live audio performance of #LionKingCH on @joinClubhouse is the most creative thing I’ve seen all year. @Lin_Manuel you would love this.
– audience of 5,000+ socially distanced
– 41 cast members and narrators
– profile pics changing scenes
Kudos @noellechesnutw + cast!💐👏🏼 pic.twitter.com/SSwgggG9LV
— Janine Sickmeyer (@myfriendjanine) December 27, 2020
Then again, there’s also the fact that you have to be listening in real-time to take part in whatever discussions may interest you – whether something as thought-provoking as political reform, as frothy as “Is Kevin Hart Funny” or as wholesome as a Lion King live musical – which could arguably keep users coming back for more even after this social interaction-deprived generation has moved on from a pandemic era.
How can you join?
Currently still in beta, Clubhouse is not yet available to the general public, so you need to be invited by an existing user to join. Not to mention, you have to own an iPhone too.
However, the team is working on bringing Clubhouse “to the whole world” by introducing the Android version of the app and improving their servers to support its large (and ever-growing) community. It has just secured a new round of funding in 2021 and boasts 180 investors to date to support these initiatives.
In other words, if you haven’t been able to jump on the bandwagon for one reason or another just yet, hang in there – you could be a Clubhouse member soon. What you can do in the meantime is download the app on the App Store and reserve a username for when you can officially join the club.
For more information, log on to the official Clubhouse website here.