There is yet another new social media app in town. The good news? It's easier to understand than Snapchat, and unlike TikTok, there are no dance moves to learn.
The app is called Clubhouse, an invite-only, audio-based social platform where users share audio instead of text posts by entering different "rooms" and listening to or participating in the conversations there.
The app, developed by entrepreneurs Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, debuted last spring in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the New York Times, the app has been downloaded more than four million times in the past month alone. Users are spending time in the virtual rooms telling stories, playing music, talking shop, exchanging ideas, gossiping or conducting interviews.
Though kids and teenagers may not have flocked to Clubhouse just yet, the app is quickly gaining in popularity. Here's everything you need to know:
1. You need an invitation to join
Currently, you must receive an invitation by an existing user in order to join Clubhouse.
2. There is a minimum age of 18
The app's guidelines and rules state that users must be at least 18 years old (or older, if required by their home country) — however, there is no age verification tool, and there are at least some younger teenagers using the app.
Laura Tierney, social media expert and founder of The Social Institute, an organization that empowers students in navigating social media, told TODAY Parents she encourages parents to learn more about Clubhouse and the audio format's potential safety issues if their children join the app or one like it in the future.
"In our work with educators, students, and parents across the country, we always try to be proactive with social media education, and we definitely see there is a race brewing in this new space of audio chat platforms, as both Twitter and Facebook are launching their own versions," Tierney said.
"Right now, Clubhouse members are typically adults who are early adopters. But as with all apps, it’s only a matter of time before it catches on with a broader audience. As more teen influencers join and create content that interests their peers, more younger people will likely join."
Keep in mind, users under 18 are in violation of Clubhouse's terms of service and may be removed.
3. There's no recording allowed
Clubhouse is purely voice-based. As the developers note in their blog, "With no camera on, you don’t have to worry about eye contact, what you’re wearing, or where you are. You can talk on Clubhouse while you’re folding laundry, breastfeeding, commuting, working on your couch in the basement, or going for a run."
Users can be removed from the app for recording or transcribing conversations. However, beware: This freedom could lead to hateful or abusive language by bad actors. It's also fertile ground to spread unverified facts or misinformation without consequences, since there is no way to play back a conversation or prove what was said.
Another important note: Followers on Clubhouse can see which rooms you enter. There is no way to set a profile to private, so make sure all the information you share there (including links to other social media accounts) is appropriate for the entire Clubhouse public to see.
4. Celebrities are in the Clubhouse
One draw to the app is the ability to potentially interact with or listen to celebrities, which might entice younger users. Stars from YouTube, TikTok, and "The Bachelor" have all joined alongside names like Lindsay Lohan, Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen, Drake, Kevin Hart and Malcolm Gladwell.
5. The app is experiencing growing pains
Even despite the invite-only model, Clubhouse grew so quickly over the past month that its servers have recently crashed from the strain. But more importantly, the developers are also working on better in-app safety features as the community grows.
In a recent blog post, the developers mention they are expanding their Trust & Safety and Support teams for the app, and in October, they noted they are taking immediate action any time a user reports a violation of the terms of service, including harassment or abuse. They also added more training for app moderators and empowered to close a virtual room if activity becomes problematic.
6. It could potentially be a great support and resource for parents
While Clubhouse might not be useful for kids or teens, it could offer parents a new way to connect. There are already "clubs" on the app such as "BLK MOTHERHOOD," "Let's Talk Motherhood," "Co-Parenting Chronicles," and "Unique Parenting — Special Education Needs and Parenting," which has 1,000 followers.
"When you first become a mom and you are at home with your baby just trying to figure things out, it can feel pretty isolating. I can see Clubhouse being a good resource for both parenting advice and community," said Mommy Shorts blogger Ilana Wiles, who recently joined the app. "Hearing people’s voices in real time can make you feel less alone."