Clubhouse Launches Beta for Android Users

Clubhouse, the hot new drop-in social audio app, which until now has been iOS only, dropped the following announcement today via their official blog:

Today, we are thrilled to share that Clubhouse for Android will start rolling out in beta immediately. We will begin gradually, with the U.S. today, followed by other English-speaking countries and then the rest of the world. Our plan over the next few weeks is to collect feedback from the community, fix any issues we see and work to add a few final features like payments and club creation before rolling it out more broadly. If you are an Android user, you can download Clubhouse for Android and sign up now to be alerted once it’s available in your area, and read the FAQ here.

If you’re intrigued and want to check it out for yourself, I do have 200 invitations for two clubs that I have created, which will allow you to join Clubhouse and join that particular club. It sounds as though Canada will very shortly follow the United States in allowing Android users in!

Pandemic Diary, May 1st, 2021: Yearning for a Crystal Ball

The view of the woods behind my apartment

Today is officially Day 412 since I began working from home in self-isolation for my university library system, since my world was upended. I’m sitting on my patio in my apartment, looking at the newly-budding trees in the woods behind me, and it feels as if Spring has finally arrived here in Winnipeg. I hear the birds chirping, and smell that one of my neighbors is barbecuing.

While I am enjoying the sunshine, maskless, a neighbour barrels around the corner of my building, also maskless, taking a shortcut around the building to find me sitting here. She briefly passes within six feet of me on her way to the garbage dumpster. Shit. It just goes to show how you can never be too careful. (My neighbor gives me a wide berth by following the sidewalk on her return trip. I would wave, but she resolutely refuses to make eye contact.)

My neighbourhood was recently added to the list of provincial COVID-19 hot spots, and therefore anyone over 17 who lives or works in the neighborhood can now go get vaccinated. I got my first shot (Oxford/AstraZeneca) on March 18th, and I am due to get my second shot in July. I take some comfort from the fact that even just the first shot will be enough to protect me from serious illness or death (at least, according to the scientific research published about the current variants of the coronavirus), but I still worry whenever there’s a slip up, such as my neighborhood getting within 2 meters, as brief as it was. I still worry. I find it hard to shut off the worry sometimes.

Last night I text chatted with my brother in Alberta, two provinces to the west, which had recently reported a worrying increase in cases (in fact, they now have the highest per-capita rate of positive COVID cases by far). I was greatly relieved to hear that both he and my sister-in-law, who are in their fifties, received their first COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday at a local pharmacy.

I find that often lately, I am anxious and distracted, having to force myself time and again to quit doomscrolling on social media and the news media, go sit outside, and relax. I listen in on countless Clubhouse rooms about the catastrophe currently happening in India, and I feel so helpless. I read about anti-mask rallies in cities all across Canada, and I get enraged.

This pandemic is taking an emotional toll on me, at a time when I should be feeling more optimistic about the summer to come. I pray that we will not see anything like the crisis and chaos erupting in south-east Asia. I hope that the increasing pace of vaccination will protect us all, and that our lives can return to normal.

Oh, what I would give for a crystal ball, to be able to see the future!

Photo by Arthur Ogleznev on Unsplash

Editorial: The Competition for Social Audio Is Getting Interesting

Twitter versus Clubhouse: who will win the battle for social audio?

I’ve written twice this week about Clubhouse (here and here), and I remain endlessly fascinated about social audio apps in general, and the two leading apps, Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, in particular. It would appear that the competition between Twitter and Clubhouse is beginning to heat up, with Twitter working aggressively to add users and features while Clubhouse seems to be experiencing some growing pains. While Clubhouse has the early lead, Twitter is making slow but steady progress, particularly in support for Android users.

Late this afternoon, I listened to a Twitter Spaces room where the future of Twitter was discussed at length, and it is clear that the new push is towards attracting content creators and providing ways to effectively monetize the platform for them. Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today about just how far Twitter Spaces has come in only four months:

Anyone of Twitter with more than 600 followers can now host their own Twitter Spaces room, which anybody on Twitter can listen to and join in, without any limit on how many people can be in the room (Clubhouse rooms are capped at 5,000 people). Also, Twtter Spaces supports both iOS and Android devices, although Clubhouse is expected to roll out Android support sometime in the next month.

Also, Clubhouse does not have a direct message ability, relying instead on people putting Instagram and Twitter links in their bios so that people can contact each other. Of course, Twitter already has direct messaging built into the platform (although celebrities and other people can choose to turn that feature off).

All this means is that social audio is still anybody’s game to win. While Twitter Spaces is lagging behind Clubhouse in terms of overall features, Twitter has something that Clubhouse does not: a much larger potential audience (192 million users). In other words, once Kayvon and his team work out some of the bugs and add more features, they could potentially have a hit on their hands. And Facebook, with 2.8 billion user accounts and deep pockets full of profits from advertising, has the potential to come in and steamroller over both Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.

(By the way, the Twitter Spaces room I was in crashed abruptly…it would appear that there are still quite a few bugs to iron out!)

Stay tuned; things are about to get really interesting!

Clubhouse: The Honeymoon Is Over

Clubhouse users are unhappy
(Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash)

I have been listening, off and on, to various rooms on Clubhouse, yesterday and today, and to me, it feels as if the wheels are starting to come off the bus.

A brief recap of recent drama that has erupted on the social audio app includes:

1. The Black woman, introduced a month and a half ago at one of the company’s townhalls as the new face on the Clubhouse app icon (which they rotate regularly) who was, without any explanation, replaced, causing a high degree of controversy within Clubhouse’s Black community that is still ongoing, despite Clubhouse’s rather ham-fisted attempts at damage control;

2. The Clubhouse Creator Program sent out mass rejection emails to all 5,000-odd unsuccessful applicants yesterday, leading to many rooms full of salty people discussing and digesting the news, and speculating as to who the successful 60 shortlisted applicants were (the speculation is rife, with a good dash of hearsay and gossip);

3. After announcing a brand-new partnership with the NFL, an ex-NFL player who hosted the most popular NFL room on Clubhouse discovered that his club name and logo were abruptly removed without notice, and the company forced him to change his club name and logo.

In short, the staff at Clubhouse can’t seem to do anything lately without inciting drama and ill will among its user base. Many people have commented that the treatment of the woman in item 1 and the man in item 3 above was particularly shabby. Clubhouse can’t seem to put a foot right lately; perhaps the hyper-charged growth over the past 13 months has led to problems within the company?

The singular strength of Clubhouse (the ability for users to spin up rooms at will, to discuss, debate, and argue about any topic) is leading to the platform’s worst nightmare: a user base that is angrily accusing Clubhouse of being tone-deaf and ignoring them. The content creators of Clubhouse are, by and large, feeling betrayed.

Between its increasingly unhappy userbase, and competition from Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and many other companies that are now planning their own drop-in audio apps, things are suddenly not looking quite as rosy at Clubhouse as they were only a couple of months ago.

Vanity Fair magazine, in an April 23rd, 2021 article titled The Clubhouse Party Is Over (archived version), says:

“I think the app is changing. People may spend an hour or two on there instead of six straight hours. It feels more like people will tune in for programming occasionally, as opposed to using it as an online community to cure the loneliness of quarantine,” one super-user of the platform told me, who still loves using Clubhouse, but also now sees its limitations. “The app still has the rare ability to put you in direct contact with people you look up to. However, it also now feels like home to more chaotic, polarizing conversations—that make it feel like ‘audio Twitter.’” The user added that the platform has become “a bit of a cesspool of racism and anti-Semitism and shady marketing groups.” For some people, that actually might sound like a fun party—but for most of us, it sounds like an app that deserves to be lingering in the bottom of the app store.

OUCH. Will Clubhouse survive its growing pains? Stay tuned!