For your average person, there aren't too many places you can hang out with actress Tiffany Haddish on a Wednesday night. An exclusive app called Clubhouse, though, could be that rare chance.
Clubhouse is an audio-chat app that's captured the attention and money of Silicon Valley and beyond. It's just the latest way technology has brought people together at a time when physical closeness is frowned upon amid a pandemic. The Information reported that the service is looking at a $1 billion valuation, hurtling it into unicorn status. And as such, it's gotten to be something of a party everyone wants to go to, but few actually can -- for now.
But if you do get one those coveted invitations, what do you do? Here's everything you need to know about Clubhouse.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an audio-based social network that launched in March 2020, created by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. Inside the app, there are virtual rooms you can enter to listen to or participate in a conversation that's on a specific topic. You can also create a room on a certain topic, yourself.
How does it work?
On Clubhouse's main page (The Hallway), you can scroll through all the rooms that are live at the moment and join any you might be interested in. Once inside, you can listen or raise your hand by tapping a button if you have something to say. A moderator in the room will allow you "on stage," which essentially gives you permission to talk.
You can also form and join Clubs within Clubhouse, which the app describes as "interest-based groups." Clubs can do things like start rooms within the club and host events. The app has a calendar showing upcoming events, as well, like a talk about mental health or discussion of a movie. If you see something interesting, you can set a reminder notification.
How do I get an invite?
Clubhouse is still in beta, so you can't just download it and hop on. In order to join, you need an invite from someone who is already on the app. You can get on the waiting list, though, by downloading the app (at the moment, it's only available for iOS) and submitting your phone number.
Do I have to speak or can I just lurk?
You're under no obligation to speak. It's important to remember room size, however. Some rooms can attract a couple thousand people in the audience. You can definitely lurk there. But if you happen to be in a room with maybe five other people, it might be a bit awkward if you don't say anything, so check how many folks are in the room first, if you'd rather hang back.
What's the controversy around it?
Over the summer, Clubhouse got some negative attention after an incident involving New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz opened up a debate about how the media covers Silicon Valley culture. This also kicked off a larger discussion about how the app will handle issues of harassment, as well as questionable content like conspiracy theories and misinformation.
What is Clubhouse doing about harassment and questionable content?
In terms of the app's policy, threats of violence and harm, discrimination, bullying, abuse, harassment, and the spread of false information are all against Clubhouse's community guidelines. In practice, you can block a user and you can also report incidents.
There are two ways to report incidents. First, you can do it in real time. While a room is live, Clubhouse creates a temporary recording, and this can be used to look into an incident, if one is reported. However, if nothing is reported while the room is live, the audio gets deleted. You can still report an incident after the fact, but there won't be any audio available if the room is no longer live.
Some of the responsibility for keeping rooms on track also falls on the moderators of the room. A moderator can control who speaks and can nudge the conversation along. The app's community guidelines suggest a moderator can be a "be a positive, balancing force."
Why is Clubhouse popular?
There are a few contributing factors to why Clubhouse has become so in demand. For one, it launched early in the pandemic, when physically gathering in a room with people is discouraged. Joining a room and hearing other humans talking holds a particular appeal in these times. There's also the exclusivity of the app -- often, people want what they can't have. The app has also attracted notable names (see next question).
Who is on the app?
One piece of Clubhouse's popularity is that it has attracted notable names including Haddish, fellow actor Jared Leto and filmmaker Ava DuVernay, as well as Silicon Valley elite like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and others. Among the Clubhouse ranks are Oprah, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, actor Terry Crews, CBS This Morning host Gayle King, and venture capitalists like Mark Cuban, Marc Andreesen and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.
What are people talking about?
The topics discussed on Clubhouse run the gamut. You can find anything from advice on pitching your startup, to panels on the music industry and real estate. There are rooms devoted to influencer marketing, Dogecoin, monetizing your TikTok, and love and relationships. There have been rooms for singles, photographers and comedians, along with auditions for plays, meta discussions about Clubhouse and career coaching for women of color. Sometimes people create rooms just for "good vibes" and for folks to hop in and hang out.
When will Clubhouse be out of beta?
There's no timeline for when Clubhouse will come out of beta and be open to everyone. The Clubhouse new user guide offers this: "The short answer is hopefully soon!"