Those who have been to Clubhouse attribute its success to user interface (UX). Photo: File
Those who have been to Clubhouse attribute its success to user interface (UX). Photo: File

Users like what they’re hearing on audio social apps

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Mar 7, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - THERE’S a war of voices fighting for our ears, thanks to the pandemic.

Audio social networks have been around, but never during a time of social isolation.

Clubhouse has emerged as the forerunner. Those who have been to Clubhouse attribute its success to user interface (UX). There’s something special about Clubhouse. There’s no scrolling on a screen, basically, you can participate while driving or washing the dishes.

The rooms are open and transient, so you could wander in on a whim, rather than needing to call a specific person, like on FaceTime or Zoom. You could sit back and listen, or you could jump in and deliver your talk.

It’s like listening to a podcast where you could talk back.

Although Clubhouse is at the forefront of this latest craze, it’s not the only app trying to win your ears.

Discord, which launched in 2015 and has 100 million users, decided this year to pivot from an audio platform for gamers to an audio platform for everyone. Twitter has been developing its own version of sound-based social, called Audio Spaces.

Twitter introduced a limited version of the Clubhouse competitor on iOS in January.

While any users of Twitter’s iOS app can join and listen to Spaces, only a few can host them at the moment. Twitter is giving Spaces to “a very small feedback group” to start, with women and people from other marginalised groups given priority. Now, users of Twitter’s Android app can join and listen to Spaces as well.

Facebook was reportedly developing a product similar to Clubhouse. However, instead of launching an audio product, the Mark Zuckerberg-led social media giant delivered a live video product via Instagram.

Live Rooms, which is a feature within Instagram, is available globally and it allows four people to video chat in a live broadcast, compared to the previous limit of two.

Instagram’s blog post indicated it hopes the feature encourages people to start a “talk show or a podcast”, host a “jam session” or collaborate with other creators. Going live with more people means the rooms could attract larger audiences.

The followers of everyone participating will see the live room and, depending on their notifications, be pinged about it.

Other audio-first upstarts have also appeared, many of them with names that sound like alternative file formats: Wavve, Riffr, Spoon.

Clubhouse is likely to remain a leader due to its user interface. Clubhouse is expanding quickly, bringing with it increased scrutiny.

Privacy and security concerns also abound. Chats have been rebroadcast online. Earlier, the Stanford Internet Observatory revealed security flaws that meant user data was vulnerable and accessible to outsiders.

The app may fall foul of data protection rules in Europe, known as GDPR.

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