Facebook is working to develop its own audio chat product akin to Clubhouse, the popular new app that allows users to host, participate in or listen to a wide range of conversations, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times on Wednesday.
The report comes less than a week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was spotted on Clubhouse, using the handle @Zuck23, to discuss Facebook’s virtual reality and augmented reality plans.
Facebook employees have been “ordered” to make an app similar to Clubhouse, the Times reported, and that Zuckerberg has “been interested in audio communication forms.” The effort to create a Clubhouse clone is in its early stages, the report added. Reps for Facebook did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
It’s easy to see why Facebook is scrambling to create a Clubhouse clone. Since launching last spring, Clubhouse has steadily gained momentum as the go-to app to hear interesting conversations, especially among many Hollywood and Silicon Valley insiders. But the app, which is invite-only, has started to open its platform up to more users recently, leading to a spike in downloads. Clubhouse, which had only 1 million downloads at the end of 2020, is now up to nearly 5 million downloads, Axios reported on Tuesday.
The app itself isn’t complicated: Users can go on the app and join a “room” where a particular conversation is going on. Often, these conversations are focused on business and networking topics; “Pivoting from live events to virtual events + sponsorships” and “virtual writing cafe” were two recent rooms pulling in users, for example. Once inside, users can listen to the discussion and, if approved by the room moderator, chime in and join the conversation themselves. It’s not uncommon to see rooms with a few dozen speakers and a few hundred users listening in. And sometimes, like in the case of Elon Musk recently speaking on the app, rooms can max out at 5,000 members.
Facebook has copied other popular apps in the past, including lifting Snapchat’s “Stories” feature and adding it to Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012, also unveiled Reels, a feature allowing users to add music to 15-second video clips, similar to TikTok, last summer.
Of course, Facebook also has a history of buying new competitors as well. But that likely isn’t a focus for Facebook, at least right now, as it faces a “tricky” antitrust lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission.
To read more about Clubhouse’s meteoric rise, click here.