• Matthew Mancini

What’s all the buzz about the Clubhouse app?

The photo above shows the Clubhouse logo in the iPhone app store. The app was created by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co. (Source Business Insider).

March 1st, 2021

By Matthew Mancini

Clubhouse is a new invitation-only audio-chat app launched in April 2020. The app is said to be a mix of “a podcast while scrolling through your Twitter feed and attending a conference remotely” according to CNBC.

The app is still in its beta stage which means you can only join the app if you specifically get an invitation from someone currently on it. As of Friday, the app has accumulated over 10 million users and counting.

The app began gaining attention after Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to have a conversation with him on the app. Musk tagged the Russian Kremlin Twitter page on Saturday, February 13th and the Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded Monday saying that the offer was definitely “interesting” but they would need more information before going through with it, according to Forbes.

Elon Musk has been quite active on the app and, back in early February, talked to Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev about the whole debacle with his company halting trading on GameStop. Robinhood CEO essentially said that they needed a certain amount of money to cover stock trades at the time, $3 billion as was recommended by the National Securities Clearing Corporation, but they didn’t have that much on hand and eventually negotiated it down to $700 million. Regardless, the whole conversation between the two was on the new Clubhouse app in a conference call with thousands of listeners.

During the conversation with Tenev, Musk made the app seem more appealing by saying “context switching is the mind-killer.” The whole point of the app is that while in the app, with notifications off, a user can focus on one topic at a time.

However, there have been concerns over moderation issues. The chats aren’t censored or overseen by staff, so many fear that it could become a place of hostility or harassment. New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz explains how she had unpleasant experiences with venture capitalists (VCs) over the app.

There was already a lot of anti-media sentiment by the VCs and one, Balaji Srinivasan, replied to one of Lorenz’s tweets, which talked about alleged misbehavior by the CEO of the luggage startup Away. A barrage of tweets followed and even more “press versus venture capitalists” sentiment followed.

Later that night on Clubhouse, Lorenz was called onto the stage by the moderator, but before she could even speak, the moderator called on Srinivasan. Her experiences displayed the hostile, and some might argue sexist, occurrences on the app.

There’s also been some concern over privacy issues and Chinese spying. The Stanford Internet Observatorypublished a blog post citing concerns over the Chinese startup Agora hosting Clubhouse’s internet traffic and offering back-end support. The Chinese company said that it does not store user audio or metadata, unless it is used for quality control measures.

Alpha Exploration later said that it’s tightening security measures, such as stopping the transmission of pings which could be picked up by Chinese spies. They’ve also said that they will be adding more encryption to their algorithms, with a third-party auditing Clubhouse’s changes.