Clubhouse, the social audio app that rose in popularity amid the pandemic, is looking to shake up its platform with the launch of private communities called “Houses.” The company's new offering allows any person or group to create their own curated “House” within Clubhouse. Users can sign up to create Houses starting today, but Clubhouse says it will approve new Houses slowly in order to learn from feedback and tweak the product accordingly.
“Think of Houses as private hallways just for your favorite people,” the company's sign-up page for Houses reads. “You can drop in anytime, hop from room to room, catch up with friends, and meet their friends. Houses usually have regular meetup times, and everyone gets to nominate a few friends, so the House grows through people you trust. Or, you can keep it closed if you like — it's fun either way.”
A spokesperson for Clubhouse told TechCrunch in an email that the company sees the new Houses offering as more intimate than Clubs, as they're built through invitations and anyone in a House can start or schedule a room within the House, whereas Clubs are more public and open for anyone to request to join. The company sees Houses as a dinner party with your friends, and Clubs as the events and shows you go to in your town.
Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison announced the change in a series of tweets, noting that each House will have its own “personality, culture and content moderation rules.” Davison said that by splitting Clubhouse into “many clubhouses,” the platform will be able to address a few issues. For instance, he noted that Clubhouse caters to more than one community and that not everyone wants to talk about the same things, which means it can be hard to find the right rooms. He went on to state that communities need to be able to split into new ones.
“Communities need to be able to undergo mitosis as they grow — so they can split into new ones and the intimacy can scale,” Davison said in a tweet. “That’s how /r/music spawns /r/hiphopheads. It’s why classrooms max out at a certain size, and why people form smaller circles when a house party grows. The world is going increasingly remote, and getting together with people you like needs to be easier.”
Davison says he believes there will be “a lot to tune” with this shakeup, but that Clubhouse has “years of capital in the bank” to fund its vision and that the company is committed to the product long-term.
The sign-up page to create a House asks you to enter your name and Clubhouse username. From there, you're asked what you would call your House, how you would describe it to others and who you would want to invite to be “Founding Members” of your House.
Live audio grew in popularity amid the pandemic as people around the world were confined to their homes, and the buzz around Clubhouse even led to Twitter and Meta launching their own social audio clones. But, as restrictions have lifted around the world and in-person events have returned, Clubhouse has been looking for ways to retain users. For example, the company recently launched in-app games and added a text chat feature into its voice rooms that’s akin to what people might see on YouTube or Twitch.
Today's announcement is clearly an effort toward achieving that same goal of retaining users and possibly attracting news ones. By splitting up Clubhouse into private communities, the company is likely looking to compete with the likes of Discord. The introduction of Houses could lure people back to the platform with the promise of offering users access to smaller and curated interactions.