Clubhouse: What is it and how do you get invited?

Less than a year old, Clubhouse already ticks the boxes for being the next big thing:

big hype
super-famous users
a massive valuation (though it’s obviously not making any money).

Here’s what you need to know.

Why should I care?

It’s making waves around the world, from the U.S. (where the app got its start) to China, Brazil, and Turkey.

Wherever you are, you’re likely to hear about it soon.

Some of the world’s super rich and famous are already big names on the app:

Tech giants like Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
rappers Drake and Kanye West
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey

And the hype and fame is bound to be followed by money: venture capitalists are already valuing Clubhouse at more than $1 billion (£0.7 billion), according to the Financial Times – quite a chunk of cash for an app that currently doesn’t make money.

How does Clubhouse work?

What sets the app apart is the lack of text, images and videos.

There’s audio only.

Also, everything happens live, in real time.

You can start a virtual room yourself or join one where other people are talking.

Usually, only a certain number of people can speak.

Everyone else only has the option to listen.

However, you can raise your hand and ask to speak.

Within the app, conversations are not recorded or made available for later playback.

So you have to listen in on everything as it happens.

What’s so good about that?

The audio-only format gives it the intimacy of listening to a podcast or talk radio show.

And although many people use the app just to talk to their friends, you can hear famous and influential people like Tesla and SpaceX billionaire Mr. Musk casually chatting as if you were in the room with them.

One potentially unforeseen benefit is that, as a new app, it has managed to circumvent the restrictions that some governments have placed on existing major social media platforms.

However, it has already been banned in China.

News site Quartz reported that Chinese Clubhouse members “use the space to talk about topics that would otherwise be censored… like democracy,” making the invite codes a hot commodity.

And already copycat apps are being launched to capitalize on this supposed uptick in social audio networks.

Can I download them now?

It is not available on Huawei, Samsung, LG or other Android phones.

And iPhone owners can’t easily join the conversations after downloading it from the App Store, either.

Clubhouse is currently by invitation only.

Existing users can only send two invitations for now.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be coming your way soon.

The company is working on plans to open it up to the masses.

What are the downsides?

Like pretty much every social media app in history, Clubhouse has faced privacy questions.

The company says it is reviewing cybersecurity after research by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) suggested that user data was routed through Chinese servers.

It’s also dealing with the fallout after someone showed it was possible to tap conversations from multiple rooms and publish them outside the app.

“Clubhouse can’t make privacy promises for conversations that happen anywhere in the world,” SIO director Alex Stamos told Bloomberg.

For most users, this won’t be a problem, since the app is all about starting a conversation and getting a large audience to listen.

But it also doesn’t stop anyone in the audience from recording the audio as it happens.

And campaigners have also raised questions about the app’s access to attendees’ phone contacts.

Will it be the next big thing?

Clubhouse has only two million active users.

It’s grown quickly.

But social media is a tricky business.

At first glance, Clubhouse seems like just a good idea with no proprietary technical tricks behind it.

And that means it can easily be copied by competitors.

Twitter is already working on its own version of spaces, called “Spaces.”

So it won’t be long before Clubhouse is adopted by established providers.

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