SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook is building an audio chat product similar to the famous youth app Clubhouse, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, as this social network aims to expand to new forms of communication.
Clubhouse, a social networking application, has resonated by allowing people to gather in audio chat rooms to talk about a variety of topics. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is very interested in forms of audio communication, said people with knowledge of the matter and he showed up in the Clubhouse app on Sunday to Chat about virtual and augmented reality.
Facebook executives have ordered employees to create a similar product, who are not allowed to speak publicly. The product is in the earliest development stage, they said, and the project’s codename is subject to change.
“We have connected people through audio and video technology for many years and are always discovering new ways to improve that experience for everyone,” said Emilie Haskell, a Facebook spokesperson.
A Clubhouse representative declined to comment.
Facebook has a history of breaking out into new technologies and pursuing different mediums that have attracted users, especially if that audience is young. Zuckerberg bought Instagram photo-sharing site, messaging app WhatsApp and virtual reality company Oculus when they were all small startups.
Facebook is also famous in Silicon Valley for its willingness to copy its competitors. Instagram in 2016 copied one of the Snapchat rival’s marquee features, Stories, ”allowing users to share short videos and photos. Last year, Instagram launched Reels, a video product similar to TikTok. When Zoom became popular last year, Facebook quickly created Rooms, a group video chat service. And this year, Facebook developed a product that competed with Substack, the popular newsletter service.
Facebook has embarked on test app development through its new Product Test team. The team has worked on podcast applications, travel apps and music apps, and so on
Clubhouse, founded last year by entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, has captured Silicon Valley elites as a private, invite-only iPhone app. The app is in “beta”, which means it’s still in beta before its release.
After signing up for Clubhouse, users can create rooms dedicated to different topics. Instead of video or text, Clubhouse’s preferred medium is voice chat. Room sizes range from intimate places to thousands of people listening or participating. Sometimes, it works like a mix of CB radio and party line from the 1980s.
Clubhouse flourished during the pandemic as people sought to connect while still isolated from each other. This app topped the Apple App Store charts in countries like Germany, Italy, Japan, and Turkey. At the recent internal meeting, Mr. Davison and Mr. Seth said Clubhouse had two million weekly users.
Dozens of celebrities – from Drake and Tiffany Haddish to Jared Leto and a co-founder of Instagram – have appeared on the app, joined various discussions, and used the service to promote their project.
Investors have noticed. Clubhouse raised $ 100 million in January with a $ 1 billion valuation, according to PitchBook. It was valued last year at $ 100 million. Its investors include venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and more than 180 other firms, the firm said.
Others are trying to compete with Clubhouse. Twitter is testing a product, called Spaces, that offers similar audio chat functionality.
International interest in the Clubhouse has also increased. The app was blocked in China on Monday after people there joined people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere to share thoughts on topics ranging from politics to secularity.
Tech giants started appearing on Clubhouse from time to time. Last month, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, agrees to be interviewed on the Clubhouse by two Silicon Valley technologists, Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy, who host a nightly talk show on the app called “Good Time”. That brought a huge amount of interest and Clubhouse struggled to maintain its service.
On Sunday, the organizers of “Good Time” interview a Facebook executive when a surprise visitor shows up: Mr. Zuckerberg. He briefly talked about the future of virtual and augmented reality and Facebook’s plans, before leaving to return to his family.