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This article was published on June 21, 2021

Clubhouse’s biggest threat? Facebook launches Live Audio Rooms

The company is also rolling out podcasts

Clubhouse’s biggest threat? Facebook launches Live Audio Rooms
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

Facebook has unleashed another threat to the future of Clubhouse.

The social media giant on Monday started rolling out Clubhouse-clone Live Audio Rooms, continuing the company tradition of ripping off competitors.

Like Clubhouse, Live Audio Rooms lets users listen to and join live conversations. Initially, only public figures and select Facebook Groups on iOS in the US will be able to create Live Audio Rooms, but users on both Android and iOS will be able to join them.

Hosts can invite up to 50 speakers to a conversation. The initial set of creators include Grammy-nominated electronic music artist TOKiMONSTA, American football quarterback Russell Wilson, and scholar-activist Rosa Clemente.

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Unlike Clubhouse, there’s no limit to the number of listeners. Both members and listeners can listen to the rooms in public groups, but only members can listen in private groups.

Users can find rooms via their News Feed and Facebook notifications. They can also set reminders that go off a room goes live, hit a “raise a hand” button when they want to speak, and get notifications when their friends or followers join the chat. Users can also enable live captions, a feature that’s still not offered by Clubhouse.

 

Facebook's Live Audio Rooms is similar to Clubhouse.
Credit: Facebook
Hosts of Live Audio Rooms can select a non-profit or fundraiser that people can donate to during a conversation.

In a further push into the social audio market, Facebook has also started adding podcasts to the platform.

Users can listen to podcasts while scrolling through Facebook via a mini or full-screen player. They can find shows on the creators’ Facebook Pages, as well as in the News Feed, and have the option to listen while their screen is off.

The initial slate of podcasts is pretty damn slim, but Facebook says it will add more in the coming weeks.

Clubhouse competition heats up

Live Audio Rooms joins a growing list of Clubhouse clones. Tech giants including Twitter, Reddit, and Spotify have also recently jumped on the social listening bandwagon, which started rolling rapidly when Clubhouse launched in March 2020.

The app’s popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic, but downloads of the IoS app have nosedived in recent months.

The launch of Clubhouse for Android in May gave the company a much-needed shot in the arm, with more than a million new users joining within a week of the release. The coming months will be a major test of the app’s longer-term prospects.

Critics have questioned the post-lockdown appeal of the app, which now faces intense from larger, more established rivals. Facebook’s enormous user base and deep pockets could make Live Audio Rooms the biggest threat yet to Clubhouse.

Social listening may be more than just a passing fad, but the format’s pioneer faces a challenging future.

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