In just a few months, the addictive, invite-only iPhone audio app has reached 2 m users. Elon Musk appeared on it on Sunday evening, too, if that’s your thing.

You could say Clubhouse is very popular, for an app that’s iPhone only and invite-only, and that would be an understatement. The app, which launched in April 2020, has gained momentum in the last month of the year and by the tail end of January 2021, its popularity was off the charts, with the app trending in countries as far away as Turkey and Japan.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, it currently has 2 million weekly active users and counting.

The app calls itself “a new type of social product based on voice”. It introduces itself as allowing “people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.”

Basically, what it offers is multiple chat rooms where you don’t type, but speak (or listen). The only visual is your photograph – there is no video like in Zoom.

The experience feels like a casual and much improved version of a conference call, where you are still looking at your phone’s screen because you are trying to figure out who is speaking (a beige frame appears around their profile pic) and you are listening actively, with both senses, rather than also trying to keep track of work emails coming through, for example.

Some users prefer to listen to it like the radio, having it play in the background like an interactive podcast while they do work. The experience of the app usage varies by time of day.

On your profile, there is space for your bio as in Twitter. You can follow as many people as you like, and they don’t have to approve your follow request – it automatically goes through. There is a rush of excitement as you meet strangers and talk to them about common interests, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when everyone has been shut in in their homes.

Because most early users are from Silicon Valley and investors from around the world, some others joke in their bios that they are not CEOs and founders, but suggest they are regular people, with a hint of irony. Clubhouse asks users to use their own names, and most seem to be complying.

The chat room moderators are marked with a green asterisk next to their name. Then there are friends of the moderators (the second tier, called ‘Followed by the speakers’) and finally, the lurkers (the third tier, called ‘Others in the room’). The second and third tier listeners may speak by ‘raising their hands’, while moderators can speak as they please.

The number of users in any chat room is limited by 5,000, which became a problem when Elon Musk of Tesla appeared on the platform on January 31, 2021 and people started streaming the show he was a guest on for those who couldn’t get into the original chat room.

The app, based on anecdotal evidence, is addictive, and there have been discussions about how to tune out and go to bed, or go about one’s daily business. It’s possible that once the initial emotional rush is over, people will listen to Clubhouse chat rooms less, but for now, they are spending hours on it, and willingly.

Still, some users criticise the celebrity culture that has infiltrated every social media app, saying they are incredulous about the number of blind followers who are going after them.

Currently the app only works on iOS, and you cannot join unless you are invited by a member. However you can apply for an invite after downloading the app, and if you have friends on the app who have your phone number in their contacts, they will be alerted that you have applied and asked if they would like to ‘let you in’.

The app also has a perfunctory Community Guidelines document that can be accessed online and serves to provide a general idea. Clubhouse admits that “as we open up to a broader audience, we expect this document to evolve.”

It is still too early to pass judgement on the Clubhouse app, as it does not even have Android users. It has also surely benefited from Covid-19 lockdowns with so many users stuck at home and looking for a sense of community. Still, it is a new and exciting app that is a must-try.

Source: TRT World