Despite the hype surrounding Clubhouse earlier this year, the platform is slowly dying in favor of its tech mogul competitors. Its invitation-only structure and its iPhone-based design (at first,) Clubhouse has been a victim of its own success—the app will disappear, but what it brought won’t. And while the app’s numbers become stagnant, the other social media giants are preparing to launch similar initiatives. Twitter already did, having established a copycat of Clubhouse, Spaces, in May. Its reach, design, and purpose only mean one thing—Twitter Spaces are replacing Clubhouse. The app is ready to take on audio-based social media.
Clubhouse was launched in 2020 as a platform where users could jump from chat to chat, listen, or pitch in. Soon, celebrities, tech moguls like Elon Musk, and venture capitalists became interested and joined the network. At first, it was exciting to belong to the app—few did and, with quarantines in place, it was a way to get in touch with people, listen, learn, network. But Clubhouse had its own limitations. First, the audio could not be recorded or shared, which resulted in many problems related to content moderation, as reported by The Verge. And second, at first, the app could only be downloaded on iPhones, which are widespread in the US but not in other countries (read Twitter diversifies as newcomers take over the Internet.)
The concept was a repackaging of an old idea—group calls. Users had a year under their belts of connecting with coworkers through Zoom calls or Microsoft Teams, so joining in for a call-based conversation seemed only natural. When interest in the app exploded in February after the GameStop saga, most users were still confined in their houses, with few social interactions and desperate to connect. Audio-based social media made sense, and other tech companies started to look at Clubhouse as the new fancy and edge entrant to the market. Twitter reportedly tried to broker a deal to acquire the firm, which fell through.
But as soon as quarantines lifted and people were able to meet in person, interest in the app plummeted. In April, the app saw an 89% decline compared with its monthly peak in February. Clubhouse was waning, and other social media companies took note. That month, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced plans to include audio features in its platforms, resembling Clubhouse. LinkedIn has also started looking at incorporating those spaces in its social network, and Spotify has bagged a live-audio application called Betty Labs. The app is focused on sports. But Twitter has taken the lead and, so far, is winning the game.
Jack Dorsey’s company launched its audio feature called Spaces in May for both Android and iPhone. It works as Clubhouse does, except that only users with 600 followers or more can host Spaces. Another difference is that Twitter might allow hosts to offer ticketed Spaces for which users will have to pay a certain fee.
The move for Twitter is brilliant, as it has multiple advantages, namely its existing infrastructure and user base. First, the app already has 199 million monetizable users, according to its first-quarter earnings, so it’s not starting from scratch. Second, the format makes sense for Twitter, which is the app where conversations happen. It’s where journalists and politicians are; it’s where news is shared; it’s where debates (or fights) get started. And Dorsey wants to keep it that way. Adding an audio feature that fosters interactions within the app is a win-win. Third, users do not need to download another app to get those audio Spaces—they can remain where they are, which is Twitter’s goal. Besides, they already know who the hosts are, as they follow them online and read their tweets. Twitter can completely replace Clubhouse through its envelopment strategy, copying the app’s unique features while improving on its faults. Finally, it is taking advantage of the network effect because everybody is already on the app. That appears to be a winning strategy.
Despite Clubhouse’s decline and Twitter’s rise, we cannot forget that Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a few other social media platforms are fighting for the same—our attention. And they will do it with all they have. Now, it’s time for audio networks, as six years ago, it was the reign of videos (let’s remember Periscope). So even if Clubhouse disappears, the platform has pushed the social media industry into a new direction, which was slowly being explored —audio.
With quarantines being lifted and social life returning, we may spend less time online than we have in the past few months. So the numbers for Spaces or other initiatives may be slower to pick up. But they will, not for everything, but specific conversations. We’ve grown used to digital conferences—and yes, we may prefer to be physically there, but we may be willing to join an online chat and hear what others have to say if the topic interests us. Clubhouse started something. Twitter is perfecting it.