Behind the exclusivity and appeal of invite-only app, Clubhouse
It started with the screenshots. Over the past few weeks, captures of starkly minimalist profiles that look like they were crafted on Notion began to flood Instagram stories. With no telling logos or images, most of us were left to wonder what the screenshot influx was about. The answer: a new, invite-only live audio app. Meet Clubhouse.
Wait, what exactly is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse’s tagline markets the app as “drop-in audio chat,” which honestly sounds more confusing than enlightening for a tech noob like myself. After poking around the app for a few days, I can therefore conclude that using Clubhouse feels like listening in on a conversation—and sometimes getting to participate in it. The main purpose of the platform is to connect people from all over the world through casual conversations about anything from faith to fitness, social issues to identity.
In essence, Clubhouse discussions feel akin to podcasts, albeit less organized, more interactive and done in real-time. Unlike podcasting platforms, conversations aren’t uploaded to the platform after they’re over. This, along with the invite-only aspect of the app, adds to Clubhouse’s divisive layer of exclusivity.
Wait, did you say invite-only?
That’s right. Just like an actual members-only clubhouse, the audio chat platform is extremely exclusive. You can’t just download the app and make an account on a whim; you need to be invited to do so. Once you’re on the platform, you can pay it forward and invite your own contacts—but each user is only allowed to share two invitations.
For as long as Clubhouse is in its beta stages, it will remain invite-only. Thereafter, it will be publicly available.
What’s it like?
The easiest way to get on Clubhouse is to be invited by a friend via your mobile number. Once invited, signing up with the same number associated with the invite is crucial.
“People use real names on Clubhouse 🙂 Thnx!” is one of the first prompts that greets new users during the registration process. No usernames or alter egos needed; it’s clear that one of the platform’s objectives is to help users network. Definitely a jump from Tumblrs and Twitters of the online world.
The next step: browsing through Clubhouse’s extensive list of categories and sub-topics. At present, 14 categories govern the content on the platform: Hanging Out, Languages, Identity, Hustle, Places, Faith, Knowledge, Entertainment, Arts, Tech, Sports, World Affairs, Life and Wellness. With pretty much all the bases covered, there’s definitely something for everyone. Topic-wise, at least.
What about the clubs and conversations?
Tapping on a topic will lead you to users and clubs to follow. Some have regular schedules, while others go online more simultaneously. When in a room during a conversation, users are able to see the speakers and moderators (distinguishable via a green asterisk beside their name!), listeners who are followed by the speakers and the rest of the listeners in the room. Like good ol’ Zoom, there’s a “raise hand” icon to prompt moderators to allow you to contribute to the discussion.
I’ve listened in on a few conversations thus far and well, they’re alright. Like any vlog or podcast, the quality and insightfulness of conversations are largely dependent on the speakers and moderators. There are some great rooms and clubs out there, but I haven’t been able to find any that have compelled me to stick around for long yet. Perhaps that’s the appeal of the app’s open rooms. If you don’t like the one you’re in, you can keep jumping until you find an interesting one, not unlike scrubbing through radio stations.
With all this taken into account, the opinions on Clubhouse are pretty diverse. Within my own circles, the spectrum ranges from “it’s the place to be” to “thanks, I hate it.” While my feelings are relatively lukewarm, I feel like I’m obligated—partially due to my job being digital in nature, but mostly because of the exclusivity a membership unlocks—to do more exploring before I give my final verdict.
After all, Clubhouse is continuously developing. In the meantime, the only way to know how much (or how little) you’ll like it is to try it out yourself.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver