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What is Clubhouse? All you need to know about the exclusive social media app

The audio-based social media platform is invite-only.
Photo illustration of hand holding a phone with a ear inside
It's different from other social media platforms in a key way.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

We're all spending a lot of time online these days, and there have never been more platforms for people to connect and share their thoughts. Whether it's long-standing sites like Facebook and Twitter, image-based apps like Snapchat or Instagram, or video-sharing platforms like Tiktok, there's something for everyone.

One new app is focusing on a different medium: audio. The Clubhouse app, which requires new users be invited, uses audio chat rooms to connect users.

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a social media app where users share audio clips instead of text posts. The company describes itself as a "new type of social project based on voice" where "people everywhere (can) talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships and meet interesting new people."

Developed by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, CNBC reported that the company was valued at around $100 million by May 2020.

When users enter the app, they can choose between different virtual "rooms" to enter. When a user enters a room, the audio automatically turns on. The creator of a room decides who can speak, and interested users can raise their hands to join the discussion. According to CNBC, the experience is "like walking into a conference room where a panel or Q&A is happening."

People can join different rooms at any time, or create their own. On their site, Clubhouse says that people have used the app to communicate about things like political issues, day-to-day life and entertainment.

"We've seen people host book clubs, fireside chats, passionate debates and comedy shows," the site reads. "It’s a place to meet with friends and with new people around the world — to tell stories, ask questions, debate, learn and have impromptu conversations on thousands of different topics."

How can you join Clubhouse?

Right now, Clubhouse prides itself on exclusivity — you have to be invited to join the platform by an existing user. According to the New York Times, the app had 600,000 users in December 2020. (In comparison, Facebook has 2.7 billion users and Twitter has 330 million.)

But their website offers hope for those interested in joining: A company statement says that they are "building Clubhouse for everyone and working to make it available to the world as quickly as possible." It's unclear when people will be able to join without an invite.

iPhone users can download the app and reserve a username without an invitation. However, they still can't access the app or the chat rooms.

The company says they believe in growing "slowly" rather than multiplying the user base "overnight."

"This helps ensure that things don't break, keeps the composition of the community diverse and allows us to tune the product as it grows," the company explained on their site. "Second, we're a small team, and we haven't yet finished building the features that will allow us to handle more people."

The invite-only exclusivity of the app also makes it unique, at least for now. Some of the site's appeal comes from its more famous users: Oprah, Jared Leto and Chris Rock have all made appearances on the app.

What makes Clubhouse different from other social media platforms?

The main things that distinguish Clubhouse from other social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, is the audio-based format. On their website, the company explained that the audio-only, camera-free environment is a "very special medium."

"You don't have to worry about eye contact, what you're wearing or where you are," the company wrote on their website. "The intonation, inflection and emotion conveyed through voice allow you to pick up on nuance and form uniquely human connections with others. You can still challenge each other and have tough conversations — but with voice there is often an ability to build more empathy. This is what drew us to the medium."