Mar 24, 2022 - 03:56 PM
Image Credit: TechCrunch
Clubhouse, the audio-only social media app was created in March 2020. It was the brainchild of Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. Its launch coincided with the Covid shutdown when we were all confined to our homes with limited social contact.
It works by letting people around the world listen to each other’s conversations in ‘rooms’, which the company caps at 8000 participants. It was first launched on iOS and supports 13 different languages, with popular topics ranging from tech to faith and sports.
At its peak, over 700,000 rooms were created each day. This was a boon for people yearning for the human connection, and the fact that it offered a more personable touch than other social apps like Twitter and Facebook contributed to its initial success.
Celebrities rushed in and added legitimacy. Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Ted Liley, Elon Musk and Chris Rock were at one time or another to be found in Clubhouse rooms. Ranked #12 on the Appstore in social networking with over 28 million downloads worldwide, the exclusivity offered (for a whole year it was only available on iPhone and one needed an invite to join) was very attractive.
Soon everyone wanted a piece of this new fad. Copycats came in thick and fast. Twitter launched Spaces, there was Greenroom from Spotify and Reddit Talk. Facebook started their Live Audio Rooms. The fairytale soon came to an end.
Clubhouse bled numbers. With increased numbers of people getting vaccinated and Covid restrictions relaxed, increased movement and interactions allowed people to resume face to face contact. Downloads dwindled by 90% and daily average users fell 80%. The novelty wore off, as people went back to having conversations with real people.
Attempts to maintain relevance by making it available on the web have not helped much. They have introduced a backchannel where people can do text chatting. ‘Clips’ is a feature that allows anyone to create a 30-second clip of the conversation in a room to share with others to entice them to join.
From invite codes selling on eBay for several hundred dollars, the excitement has largely abated. The dizzying growth has proved unsustainable. A few users try to maintain the faith, and rooms are still opened daily. Interestingly, the company was still valued at $4 billion by January 2022.