The social media debates and discussions may have graduated into new domains of audio-only applications such as Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces, both competing to woo a not-so mutually exclusive audience, but there is little potential for an audiophiles’ cola war, at least in the near future. And neither has one platform completely obliterated the other in cultural relevance, as it happened in the Facebook vs Orkut battle of the mid-2000s that forced the latter to make an exit, turning the former into the giant it is today.
But as is the case with anything that has similar qualities, an ensuing debate has been on — which is better, Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse? Typical of the social media debates that don’t usually give us a well-articulated, comprehensive view of the topic at hand, the verdict on Spaces vs Clubhouse also remains hazy.
The novelty of Clubhouse
While Clubhouse was launched in 2020, it gained footing in India only this year. The app has always been this exclusive invite-only space that not everyone can access. Even now, you need an invite to access it and such a system is against the very grain of social media that is supposed to be an open for all platform — good or bad. The app is going to do away with the invites, but it hasn’t happened yet.
In fact, the android version of the app was launched just last month. This in itself proves how for the longest time, Clubhouse was limited to those who could afford iPhones, and in India that is a significantly small number compared to the strength of android users. Behind the initial iOs-only contract between Clubhouse and Apple could be the latter’s long tested strategy of expanding its hardware market (iPhones and iPads) by seducing new users into its software-apps ecosystem. And it works both ways, because those who enter the Apple club are well aware of the novelty the brand carries.
In Clubhouse, there are rooms for politics, current affairs, dating horrors, sanghi content, beauty, skincare, trolling, bashing and even increasing followers. It is great to talk to friends because it allows you to have private rooms and also has great audio quality.
But otherwise, the reach and diversity of Clubhouse is still so limited that there are a lot of similar rooms just having the same conversations. And with no visuals or text on the app, it feels redundant. Even something like YouTube that is supposed to be just for videos has a community tab and a comments section that allows greater participation. On Clubhouse, it’s just about listening to the person speaking.
Once the newness of accessing this audio-focused platform wears off, there is not much to do on Clubhouse. So, exclusivity won’t alone come by restricting the number of users. The app will also have to offer exclusive content and features. If not, Twitter Spaces will occupy the popularity space, at least.
Barely a few months since its February 2021 peak, the novelty factor Clubhouse rode on seemed to wear off sharply, as it was only downloaded 900,000 times in April. Given how new this company is compared to other bigger players in the market, some members of the media already put out obituaries lamenting the swift death of the platform.
Fleeting Twitter Spaces
Just like it felt premature to wax lyrical about the good qualities of the Clubhouse platform and overlooking issues like privacy, it may be too early to chuck this app into the bin just yet, as its most high profile competitor isn’t doing a particularly bang-up job either.
So does anyone reading this remember Fleets?
Not many do actually since Twitter’s attempt to piggyback off the success of Snapchat and Instagram’s Stories feature was half-baked and marked by a botched, glitch-filled launch, which led the company to slow down its global rollout. Currently, this feature exists as an oddity at the top of an already crowded Twitter UI, massively underused and perhaps too irrelevant to even be a subject of frequent mocking or criticism from general users.
Seemingly unfazed by this abject failure as it chases acquisitions, Twitter released Spaces the same month that Clubhouse’s downloads dropped below a million. And the thinkpiece predictions rolled in once again, with delight that we now have two major audio conferencing platforms to choose from.
But in certain ways, Spaces does have an edge over Clubhouse.
One, it is accessible to all those who can access Twitter since there is no invitation business. And two, since it is part of Twitter and not a separate application, you can scroll through your feed while listening to a Space and even tweet about it or talk about it in DM.
Moreover, with Twitter Spaces, it is evident that it is a public conferencing feature. Doctors especially use the space to talk about Covid-19 and other medical issues, making it an extremely informative platform. The simplicity of its function also makes it gain a point.
That being said, the glitches on Spaces need to be tackled by Twitter.
However, it is difficult to truly assess the success of Spaces unless Twitter publicly releases numbers on daily active users. So it is perhaps not the fairest comparison from the point of view of those at Clubhouse.
And the winner is…
Beyond Clubhouse and Spaces, however, audio has emerged as the big winner overall.
Over the years, social media has had an interesting trajectory. If we take Facebook as the sort of inception point of when these sites began being taken seriously, we’d notice that every social media epoch had a ruling medium.
In the stone age era, it was text that was the novelty factor. Writing on each other’s Facebook walls or tweeting thoughts within 140 characters were what encompassed online socialising. It then moved to photographs with the advent of applications like Instagram and Snapchat. Video was next with YouTube, TikTok and the Stories feature on Instagram.
And now, the rise of Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces have both proven definitively that the 2020s will probably be a decade where audio will reign supreme. This could be a direct consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting isolation.
However, while audio may be the next big thing in tech, it does not necessarily mean that it will just be audio and nothing else. Clubhouse is novel, but you cannot spend hours on it like you can on Instagram and Twitter. And at the same time, not many people actually use Twitter Spaces or are inclined to do so.
Perhaps the best thing to do for those who lost interest in Clubhouse and were never keen on Spaces is to return to some “old-fashioned” Discord.
Views are personal.