More competition for Clubhouse as Facebook starts rolling out Live Audio Rooms

By: |
June 22, 2021 5:18 PM

Facebook has joined the likes of Spotify, Discord, Reddit and Twitter in launching its own competitor to Clubhouse.

A major benefit that Live Audio Rooms is offering against Clubhouse is no limitation on the number of listeners in a Room.

Clubhouse: Since the beginning of the year, Clubhouse’s popularity has been increasing, and now, it has become the new rage in the social media world. Naturally, as its popularity increases, so will the competition. While Twitter’s Spaces was the first competitor for Clubhouse and it was incorporated right into the Twitter app for easy use, Clubhouse still remains the preferred platform for audio chat, likely because of the fact that the platform gives an air of mega-exclusivity due to it being invite-only. But now, more and more competitors are springing up.

The latest among the fray is Facebook, even as CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself was one of the first major users of Clubhouse, and his participation, along with that of tech mogul Elon Musk, drove users to the audio chat social media platform in the first place. Facebook’s rival to Clubhouse is called Live Audio Rooms, and the social media giant has started rolling it out in the US. Currently, while both iOS and Android app users would be able to join the platform, the feature to host rooms is available only on the Facebook iOS App, that too to some public figures in the US and some groups only. However, anyone can be invited to speak, and a maximum of 50 people can speak at a time.

Also read | Clubhouse expands Creator First programme to India

A major benefit that Live Audio Rooms is offering against Clubhouse is no limitation on the number of listeners in a Room. Like Clubhouse, the platform would send notifications to users when their friends or followers join Live Audio Rooms. Apart from offering live captions, the users would also have a “raise hand” feature to request being a part of the conversation. Reactions would also be available to users throughout the audio chat. The feature of live captions is not yet offered by Clubhouse, but Twitter’s Spaces does have it.

As far as Facebook Groups are concerned, the admins of such groups would be able to decide who can be allowed to create a room, be it moderators, other admins or members of the group. Not only that, but while Audio Rooms of public groups would be accessible to all Facebook users, those of private groups would only be available to the members of that group. The tech giant is also linking a donate button to the feature in case hosts want to support a nonprofit or fundraiser during their conversation, allowing an easy method for others to make donations. The feature is again meant to be an improvement over Clubhouse, where many hosts have requested listeners to make donations but have needed to redirect them to an external link where the donation would need to be made.

Facebook has joined the likes of Spotify, Discord, Reddit and Twitter in launching its own competitor to Clubhouse and it makes one wonder if Mark Zuckerberg joining Clubhouse was done only with the sole purpose of understanding the app and its shortcomings and create a platform that would not be original by any means, but would be a slight improvement over the original. The idea is not that far-fetched considering the fact that after the launch of Facebook, Zuckerberg took to acquiring apps that were performing well already – like Instagram and WhatsApp – and then followed a strategy of adding enhancements to them based on other apps that became popular – like adding Reels to Instagram and Facebook after the popularity of TikTok shot up. However, since this model seems to be working well for him so far, there does not seem to be any reason for Zuckerberg to stray away from it, at least for now.

Also read | Here’s how Facebook plans to help group admins tackle contentious or unhealthy conversations

It would be beneficial to him since he already has a strong userbase on Facebook, and much like he did with other features, he could soon look at expanding it to Instagram, tapping on that userbase as well. It could also work in his favour that Clubhouse continues to remain invite-only so far, so some users who might not be able to enter Clubhouse could begin to look for alternatives. While Twitter, Reddit, Spotify and Discord are offering open-for-all alternatives, they might not hold the same appeal, since all of them have a perception of having a niche. On the other hand, Facebook has a wider appeal, and a bigger standing in general, and therefore, might be the preferred competitor.

However, Live Audio Rooms is not the only feature Facebook is bringing.

The social media giant has decided to also bring Podcasts to its platform, allowing users to listen to podcasts with the help of a mini-player or a full-screen player, while also offering many playback controls. One major feature is that it would also allow users to continue listening even when the screen is off. The shows would be available on the Pages of the podcast creators and on the News Feed, and just like for all of its other features, the users would have the option to react, comment, share or bookmark their favourite episodes. Later this year, the automatic captioning feature would also be rolled out, along with an option that would allow listeners to create clips of their favourite part of the episode and share them.

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