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Here's what you need to know about Clubhouse
Wondering why you're hearing a lot about Clubhouse lately? Much like the "Gamestonk" controversy, we can partially blame Elon Musk. By popping up in a Clubhouse room in January, the world's richest man (for now) brought the service a lot of attention. Bill Gates did the same, and it has steamrolled since then. Here's what you need to know about the exclusive chat app everyone is talking about.
Okay, so what is it?
Here's the gist: Imagine you have an app on your phone that lets you listen in on other people's live conversations. But not in a creepy way; these people want to be heard. They may even be famous, or at least interesting or knowledgeable (no guarantee, however). And you may be given the opportunity to join the chat. Think of it as an audio-chat social network. Or as PCMag's Jordan Minor says in our review, "What if Twitter was a podcast you lived inside of?"
When did it launch?
Clubhouse launched (along with COVID in the US!) in March 2020. It became a big deal to a select few in part because of its invite-only exclusivity, much like a real-world club membership. In those early days, it was a tiny community, mainly consisting of venture capitalists. After all, the company behind Clubhouse—Alpha Exploration Co.—received a $12 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz after two months of existence. It was quickly worth $100 million—and it only had 1,500 users at the time. (Valuation for Clubhouse as of April 2021: $4 billion.)
So there are no pictures or videos?
No. Only profile pics for each user.
Where can I get the Clubhouse app?
Clubhouse is currently available on iOS and Android. It launched on iOS last year, and the company started a US-only Android rollout in early May. As of May 21, it's available on Android worldwide, and downloads of the Android version crossed 1 million in less than two weeks.
Can I use Clubhouse on the iPad?
Sure, but it's not optimized for iPadOS. So you'll be using the app in a small window, or looking at it in a weird, zoomed-in 2x size. It should be okay on an Android tablet, however.
Cool, so I can just sign up, right?
Nope. At the time of this writing, you still need an invitation from an existing Clubhouse user to get access. Every new user gets two invites, and they earn more as they use the app. Ask your friends if they have one. You could buy an invite on eBay or try a "pay-it-forward" invite chains, but be wary of invite scams.
So all I need is the app? There's no website?
The only website the company has is joinclubhouse.com, and it's simply a pointer to the Apple App Store and Google Play. (Don’t confuse this service with clubhouse.io, either. That's a project manager.) The app is the only way to listen to or participate in audio conversations.
What's with the app icon?
Clubhouse doesn't have an official logo icon. It has opted for an ever-rotating black-and-white portrait of a person as its icon that appears on a smartphone screen. Each person is a real-life user of Clubhouse. Usually, it's someone who has had an important impact on the platform, or is at least someone Clubhouse believes has a deep understanding of what it is doing. Each icon lasts a few weeks and gets changed with a major app update.
Some have praised Clubhouse for this design choice as breaking up the monotony, but others think it just makes it hard to find the app on your phone when the icon changes.
To date, Clubhouse is on its eighth iconic person—social activist and visual artist Drue Kataoka. Previous icons include musicians Axel Mansoor and Bomani X (pictured above), startup promoter Erika Batista, and tech podcaster Espree Devora.
How much of my data does Clubhouse want for a registration?
You have to give Clubhouse your phone number and your real name (in theory). You can register the eventual username you want for the service before you even get an invite. The person inviting you simply needs your phone number. You'll get a link via SMS text, telling you to visit joinclubhouse.com/app and sign in with that number.
Link your Twitter account to Clubhouse if you don't want to set up a profile from scratch; it'll even pull in your existing Twitter profile pic. Clubhouse also pushes you to link your contacts, in the name of making it easier to find people to follow. Don't bother if you don't have a contact list full of influencers. Once you're logged in, verify your email address with the service so you have it as a method for reconnecting if there's an issue.
What am I supposed to listen to on Clubhouse?
When you finally get access, the app offers a page full of conversational topics to follow, from sports to tech to world affairs to faith to "hustle" and on and on. In each, you'll find people interested in the same thing, and you can follow them. The more topics and people you follow, the more likely you are to get suggestions for a room that fits your desires.
How many people can be in a conversation?
The current limit is 5,000 people per Clubhouse room—which Musk busted through, of course. Users in that room started live-streaming the conversation on YouTube (which is a clever workaround for recording what's said). That 5K person limit can be turned off, however, at Clubhouse's discretion.
What do you really mean by a conversation? Isn't it like a podcast?
It depends on your podcast preferences, but remember—all the people involved are speaking via their iPhones, not fancy audio setups. They don't see each other, so it really is like listening in on a phone call. There's no professional editing, no sound effects, no transitions, and no advertising (at least not officially). That said, the "style" of the conversation is flexible: one room might be a casual one-on-one between friends, while another is a more formal talk-show-style interview, a big group discussion, or even a music-sharing session. If someone interesting drops into a room—like a billionaire—the room creator/moderator can put them on the "stage" as a speaker.
So I can only listen in?
Not necessarily. Anyone listening in can virtually "raise a hand." It's up to the room's creator/moderator if they want to let you talk.
What are the downsides of Clubhouse?
The service has had some issues already with hate speech and abuse, so it had to institute community moderation guidelines in October. It made a common mistake—believing it could trust users to not be jerks. There are always jerks.
It's been blocked in China as of February 8, 2021, as it offers a little too much freedom of expression for the government there. That's only a downside if you live in China.
Also bad: the service has already suffered a data breach after a third-party developer in China tried to create an Android version of Clubhouse that wouldn't require an invite.
Privacy could also be a problem. As Inc.com reports, Clubhouse doesn't spell out how long it retains those complaint-related recordings ("when the investigation is complete," is all it says), or who at the company has access to them. Clubhouse is also scooping up other info about you, not only from what you share (your contacts and social media) but what others share (their contacts and social media). It's always tracking you with all the usual tricks, like cookies.
What if I want to quit this club?
Previously, you had to email "firstname.lastname@example.org" to ditch Clubhouse, but following user complaints, you can now deactivate your account by going to Settings > Account > Deactivate Account.
- by Samiksha Shrestha
- by Samiksha Shrestha
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