Clubhouse voice chat leads a wave of spontaneous social apps

Forget the calendar invitation. Just enter into a conversation. This is the idea that feeds a new series of social startups about to take advantage of our eliminated programs in the midst of quarantine. But they could also change the way we work and socialize long after COVID-19 bringing online fluid and ad hoc communication from the parties and open office plans. While “Live” has become synonymous with performative streaming, these new apps instead spread the limelight on multiple users, as well as activity, play or discussion at your fingertips.

The most lively of these startups is Clubhouse, an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump together in voice chat rooms. See the unlabeled rooms of all the people you follow and you can join to talk or simply listen, wandering around to find what interests you. High-energy rooms attract crowds, while slower ones see participants sneak out to join other circles.

Clubhouse blew up this weekend on VC Twitter as people flocked to exclusive invitations, humiliated themselves on their membership, or made fun of everyone’s FOMO. For now there are no apps or public access. The Clubhouse name perfectly captures the way people want to be part of the crowd.

Clubhouse was built by Paul Davison, who previously founded the serendipitous offline location app for people who meet people Highlight and reveal your whole camera roll before his team was acquired by Pinterest in 2016. His studio debuted this year Alpha Exploration Co startup is launched Talk show to instantly transmit radio-style call programs. Spontaneity is the common thread that unites Davison’s work, whether it be making new friends, sharing your life, passing on your thoughts or discussing.

It is very early for Clubhouse. It doesn’t even have a website. There is no telling exactly what it will be like if or when it will be officially launched and Davison declined to comment. But the positive reception shows the desire for a more immediate multimedia approach to the discussion that updates what Twitter has done with the text.

Sheltered by surprise

What quarantine has revealed is that when you separate everyone, spontaneity is a great thing you are missing. In your office, it could be a casual chat with a colleague or commenting out loud on something funny that you found on the Internet. At a party, it could be a wandering around to chat with a group of people because you know one or hear something interesting. This is lacking while we have been stuck at home since we randomly stigmatized a friend by phone, other than the asynchronous text despite its lack of urgency.

Clubhouse founder Paul Davison. Image Credit: JD Lasica

The programmed Zoom calls, the utilitarian slender discussions and the endless chains of e-mails do not capture the emotion of surprise or the joy of the conversation that rises dramatically while people make up for each other’s ideas. But smart app developers are also realizing that spontaneity doesn’t mean constantly interrupting people’s lives or workflows. They give people the power to decide when they are or are not available or signal that they should not be disturbed, so they are pushed into social connection only when they want to.

The Houseparty ranking is classified via AppAnnie

Houseparty embodies this spontaneity. It became the decisive success of the quarantine, allowing people on a whim to enter group chat rooms with friends the moment they open the app. It has seen 50 million downloads in a month, up 70 times from pre-COVID levels in some places. It has become the social app n. 1 in 82 countries, including the United States, and the first ever in 16 countries.

Originally built for games, Discord allows communities to spontaneously connect through persistent video, voice and chat rooms. There has been a 50% increase in US daily voice users with peaks in states that were first to adopt refuge such as California, New York, New Jersey and Washington. deck, for video chat superimposed on mobile games, is climbing the charts and is becoming mainstream with its user base that moves towards the female majority as they speak for 1.5 million minutes a day. Both apps make it easy to join friends and choose something to play together.

The improvised Office

Corporate video chat tools are adapting to spontaneity as an alternative to preconditioned and heavy Zoom calls. There was a backlash when people realized they were doing nothing by scheduling back-to-back video chats all day.

  • Loom allows you to quickly record and send a video clip to colleagues who can watch as they please, with forward and reverse conversation speeded up because videos are loaded as they are shot.


  • Small circular video windows overlap around the screen so you can instantly communicate with colleagues while most of the desktop remains focused on real work.


  • The screen exists as a small widget that can start collaborative screen sharing where everyone gets a cursor to control the shared window so that they can improvise code, design, write and annotate.


  • Pragli is an avatar-based virtual office where you can see if someone is in a calendar meeting, away from home or streaming listening to music so you know when to immediately open a voice or video chat channel together without having to intentionally find a moment in to which everyone is free. But instead of following you at home as Slack, Pragli allows you to log in and out of the virtual office to start and end the day.


Raising your voice

While visual communication has been the main feature of our cell phones allowing us to show where we are, on-site refuge means we don’t have much to show. This has expanded the opportunity for tools that take a less-is-more approach to spontaneous communication. Whether it’s remote parties or quick troubleshooting, the new apps in addition to Clubhouse incorporate voice rather than just video. The voice offers a way to quickly exchange information and feel present together without dominating our workspace or attention, or forcing people into an unpleasant spot.

High fedelity is the current $ 72 million startup, co-founded by Philip Rosedale’s Second Life. Having recently moved away from creating a virtual reality collaboration tool, High fedelity started testing an online event platform based on voice and headphones and a hangout. The initial beta allows users to move their point on a map and listen to the voice of anyone close to them with spatial audio so that the voices get louder as you get closer to someone and move between the ears as you move further. You can approach and spontaneously leave small groups of points to explore different conversations within earshot.

An unofficial mockup of the first High Fidelity tests. Image Credits: DigitalGlobe (Opens in a new window) / Getty Images

High Fidelity is currently using a satellite photo of Burning Man as a test map. It allows DJs to install themselves in different angles and listeners can walk among them or go away with a friend to chat, similar to the real offline event. Since Burning Man was canceled this year, High Fidelity could potentially be a candidate for owning the planned virtual version that the organizers have promised.

Former Houseparty CEO Ben Rubin and Strivr VR, founder of employee training Brian Meek, are building a spontaneous teamwork tool called Slashtalk. Rubin sold Houseparty to the Fortnite Epic producer in mid-2019, but the game giant has largely overlooked the app until its recent quarantine-driven success. Rubin left.

His new startup site explains that “/ talk is an anti-meeting tool for fast and decentralized conversations. We believe that most meetings can be eliminated if the right people are connected at the right time to discuss the right topics, for everything. the time it takes. ”Allows people to quickly switch to a voice or video chat to order something without delaying until a collapsing session with a calendar.

Slashtalk co-founder Ben Rubin at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015

Whether it’s work or play, these spontaneous apps can evoke the times of our unstructured youth. Whether sifted through the canteen or the school yard, seeing who else is at the mall, walking through the halls of the open doors in the college dorms, or hanging on the student union or in the campus square, pre-adult years offer many opportunity for improvised social interaction.

As we age and move into separate houses, we literally build walls that limit our ability to perceive the social cues that signal that someone is available for unsolicited communication. These are the apps generated like Down To Lunch and the acquisition of Snapchat Zenly and the upcoming Facebook Messenger status function designed to overcome these barriers and make it less desperate to ask someone to go offline.

But while socializing or collaborating at IRL requires transportation logistics and usually a plan, the new social apps discussed here instantly put us together, thus eliminating the need to plan solidarity in advance. The geographical limits that prevent you from connecting only with those within a reasonable journey are also over. Digitally, you can choose from your entire network. And the quarantines have further opened our options by emptying parts of our calendars.

In the absence of such frictions, what transpires is our intention. We are able to connect with whoever we want and achieve what we want. Spontaneous apps open the channel so that our impulsive human nature can shine.

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