Everyone wants to ride the Clubhouse wave. Between Twitter's Spaces, and Mark Cuban's forthcoming Fireside there was no doubt Facebook, one of tech's greatest copycats, would sit out the action. According to The New York Times, Facebook is working on its own equivalent of the highly popular Clubhouse app. An obvious advantage for Facebook is its reach: the company has billions of users, while Clubhouse remains, for now at least, invite-only.
Two people close to the matter told the NYT the social network company, notorious for cloning competitor products and crushing competition, hasn't yet settled on a name for its version of Clubhouse. Facebook, of course, downplays the shameless rip-off angle.
Facebook spokeswoman Emilie Haskell told the New York Times, "We’ve been connecting people through audio and video technologies for many years and are always exploring new ways to improve that experience for people."
This report comes only days after Mark Zuckerberg himself was on Clubhouse to talk about augmented and virtual reality technology, a topic that has garnered crowded virtual rooms on the service.
How does Clubhouse feel about this? — So far, the founders of Clubhouse Paul Davison and Rohan Seth are quiet about the rumors of a Facebook-enabled audio app. But then, why would they say anything, as Instagram's founders were warned when Zuckerberg began courting them, there's no point in angering the giant.
Davison and Seth's product has boomed during the pandemic; with millions at home, Clubhouse has become a quasi-living room or bar where strangers can sit and talk for hours about anything and everything under the sun. Elon Musk, Drake, Tiffany Haddish, Jared Leto, and other hotshots have all made appearances on Clubhouse.
At the moment, Clubhouse remains limited to the iPhone crowd but still managed to raise $100 million in January and currently boasts investors like Andreessen Horowitz and at least 150 other entities. The meteoric rise of the app has also included some hurdles, though, like Chinese authorities reportedly blocking the app in their country on Monday.
The emergence of Clubhouse and Substack — The most intriguing aspect of Clubhouse is its concurrent rise with Substack, the subscription newsletter platform that is now home to several high profile journalists, writers, and public figures. Just like Clubhouse, Substack has prompted copycat products, with Twitter releasing its service called "Revue," and Forbes its own.
Will Facebook's service be able to compete? That may depend on its ability to attract stars. Clubhouse doesn't work because anybody can have a voice on it, but because somebodies sometimes choose to.