I first heard about Clubhouse through word of mouth. One Friday a few weeks ago, feeling officially Zoomed-out and longing for a weekend that extended beyond grocery shopping and binge-watching Euphoria, a friend WhatsApped me, asking if I had an invite to get on to the new audio app, described on its website as “a new type of social product based on voice.”
I hadn’t, and fearing that I was late to the party, I immediately began sleuthing, impatience and severe FOMO fuelling me to download the latest technological trend that might simultaneously quell my boredom and quench my thirst for a semblance of ‘normality’ (a laughable notion in 2020, I know). I was disappointed to receive a message stating I was on the virtual waitlist. Frustratingly, you can’t see anything about the app unless you’re invited to join—or you’re a celebrity, such as Drake, Ashton Kutcher or Virgil Abloh.
What does the Clubhouse app look like inside?
After finally obtaining an invite through a friend, my first port of call was exploring rooms. The app appears on your phone like all apps and once you’re in, Clubhouse feels both chaotic and exciting. You’re greeted with a pretty plain-looking homepage that lists the discussions that are happening at that time, as well as chats scheduled for later.
Your algorithm corresponds with both your address book and who you choose to follow—so, depending on your field of work/interest/friends, you’ll see chat rooms hosting talks on music, film, culture, race, tech and beauty. I was instantly hooked: names of celebrities who were normally out of reach were suddenly a click away. Scheduled panel talks were being queued on my feed and fellow peers were virtually moderating rooms.
The first room I entered was a discussion about emerging US rapper Mulatto and her controversial name (historically an anti-Black term used to describe those with mixed-race ancestry). The debate got quite heated and so, leaving quietly, I began flitting from one cyber room to another. Across the weekend, I zeroed in on lively discussions about everything from women in music to Harry Potter fandom—after 48 hours, the addictiveness and allure of Clubhouse was clear.
Kevin Hart, Drake and Tiffany Haddish’s virtual room conversations have proven so popular that the voice-based forum regularly trends on Twitter and room debates seem to be sparking people’s attention on Instagram, too. Soon to become accessible to everybody (the Clubhouse website states “we’re still in private beta but we’re working hard to open things up soon”), here is everything you need to know about the app.
What kind of conversations are being had on Clubhouse?
A dizzying bringing together of live podcast-style conversations, panel discussions, networking opportunities (some savvy people are already swapping ‘influencer’ for ‘moderator’) and advantageous multiple-room use (locked and private options are available so you can talk to pals too), the social-media app mimics real-life interactions.
Launched in April, it’s continuing its global rollout having been valued at an estimated $100m (£75m) in May 2020. Recording any conversation is strictly forbidden, meaning your encounters with VIP members or general conversations are protected.
Who created the Clubhouse app?
Developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison and ex-Google employee Rohan Seth, the app received approximately $12m in funding from US capital firm Andreessen Horowitz in May and has continued to soar. While the app can only house iPhone users for now, its expansion is imminent (in May 2020, it had 3,500 users—we can assume it’s far higher today). A new update means members can leave the app running and listen to conversations while making dinner/ordering Deliveroo.
The app is becoming increasingly popular
Since the launch and during new worldwide lockdown measures, its popularity has increased tenfold. But like many new apps, it’s not without its issues, says 24-year-old UK beauty PR Eki Igbinoba, who’s been on the app for a month. “It’s great for networking and informal discussions about creative industries, but I’m wary of ideas being stolen from lesser-known moderators,” she tells Vogue over the phone.
It’s almost like seeing your friends IRL
It’s easy to switch from ‘room’ to ‘room’, taking part in discussions on the virtual stage once allowed by moderators (you request to speak by pressing the ‘raised hand’ emoji). Think of Clubhouse as a panel. Topics range from influencer culture to race and feminism to chat rooms debunking myths about turning 30. Once you have a close-knit group on the app, you are free to create private rooms to spearhead your weekly catch-up or pretend you’re at the pub on a typical (pre-Covid) Friday night.
Drake and Oprah Winfrey have joined
Celebrities are signing up in their droves. Its relative privacy is a big plus for VIP members who can speak freely without fear of their words ending up on TMZ. Expect to hear from superstars such as Drake, Tiffany Haddish, Jared Leto, Ashton Kutcher and Chris Rock.
Clubhouse has received some backlash over alleged leniency with harassment protocols and failure to moderate rooms appropriately. The New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz publicly denounced the chat-based platform when she found herself a talking point in one of the rooms.
On 1 October, Clubhouse released a statement condemning anti-Blackness, anti-Semitism, hate speech and abuse, and followed up with a list of guidelines and rules it intends to implement. This includes allowing moderators to block, report and mute in-house rooms and investigating violations immediately.
Clubhouse is semi-exclusive… for now
iPhone users can download the app from the Apple store and reserve a username. However, as it is still in beta testing, its exclusivity means you’ll be added to the waiting list unless you receive an invite via a friend or colleague. Each person gets to invite a handful of friends once their application is successful. If your interest is piqued, rest assured, Clubhouse says it will be released to the wider public very soon.