Hey, remember Clubhouse, the one-time must-have audio social platform, which generated massive buzz, to the point where people were selling invites to the app for hundreds of dollars on eBay?
Well, it seems that the Clubhouse crew is still holding out hope of rekindling the magic, with a new update that, in Clubhouse’s own words, evolves Clubhouse “to be more like a messaging app”.
Which, as an audio-focused app, kind of hurts my head to contemplate, but here’s the deal:
Clubhouse is introducing a new element called “Chats” which are essentially group phone calls that your friends can drop into at any time in the app.
As per Clubhouse:
“A Chat is a voice-only group chat with your favorite people. It’s like a Clubhouse room, but it takes place asynchronously, so you can drop by and chime in on your own time.”
So as noted, it’s like a phone call that’s open to anybody you allow to join in. Which is pretty much what Facebook tried out with its Messenger Rooms back in 2020, and what Reddit has experimented with in Reddit Talks, in regards to audio chats among smaller, specific groups. No one cared much about those features, but sure, the “new Clubhouse”, which is “designed to be more social than other messaging apps, and a bit more Clubhouse-y”.
Sure. Should be great.
Clubhouse says that users will be able to push to talk within a Chat, listen at 2x, tap to skip, swipe to the next Chat, “and slide into your friends’ VMs to chat privately”. You can also set your chats to “friends only” or “friends-of-friends” to expand the group.
Which is something different for Clubhouse, I guess, but functionally, it’s not a major innovation, nor a major change that’s likely to get more users back to the app.
Which is what Clubhouse really needs.
At peak, Clubhouse claimed to be serving some 10 million active users per week, but more recently, its download numbers have declined significantly, with the app currently ranking at #214 in the “Social Media” category on the App Store.
In April, Clubhouse cut its staff by 50% as part of an effort to streamline its operations, though it also noted at the time that it has “years of runway remaining”, with respect to funding pledges.
Is that still true? Probably not.
I suspect that Clubhouse’s usage declines have heaped a lot of pressure on the app, and with no real avenue for development if people just aren’t interested in audio rooms anymore, I don’t really see how “innovating” with a different type of phone meetings is going to help.
Which is unfortunate for the Clubhouse team, but we’ve seen this happen with any number of trending apps, with a heap of buzz, and cash, flowing their way for a time, before audiences move on, with not much left in their wake.
But Clubhouse still fulfills a niche role for some, and its dedicated fans swear by it. So maybe there’s something there, though unless those fans number in the 10’s of millions, probably not.
But Clubhouse is making moves, and trying things out, as it looks to latch back onto the hype train.