For the last couple of months anyone in the audio space has heard an awful lot about Clubhouse, the Silicon Valley social audio startup. You need an invite to get in, and then you can chat in rooms with people who’ve got something to promote (Crypto, NFTs, themselves…) or listen to famous people chew the fat.
At least, that’s my perception of it. I confess I don’t completely get it because I’m basically excluded.
Clubhouse, despite being launched in April 2020, is still iOS only, and I use an Android phone, like most of the world. An Android app is reported to be coming – perhaps in May 2021.
Of course where Clubhouse goes, just about everyone else seems to be following. Twitter has its Spaces which is in beta. Except that’s also iOS-only for hosting a Space right now. So I can listen to other people’s chats, but not fully join in. (How this all gets integrated into the Twitter app seems a bit of a car crash too, alongside Twitter’s fairly worthless Instagram Stories competitor, Fleets, also being fully redundant and wasting valuable screen real estate).
Elsewhere, Facebook is said to be working on a competitor, because, of course it is. Spotify is making one because, as with podcasts, the more time you spend with Spotify not listening to expensive music, the more likelihood they have to actually return regular profits. The Verge also reports that Slack and Mark Cuban are both separately working in this space.
And then this morning I read that LinkedIn is planning on building one, which does actually make sense, because whatever you think of it, they do have the platform and users already in place to out-Clubhouse the new upstart.
Except that Microsoft are said to be currently deep in discussions to acquire Discord, and well, that already is social audio. Indeed it’s vastly bigger than anything else I’ve mentioned here, with an enormous user-base that has already expanded beyond gamers.
I confess that when I read reports that Microsoft was running the rule over the business, beyond rolling it natively into the Xbox ecosystem, my first thought was “Discord for LinkedIn.”
Oh, and guess what? Discord has a very good, and no doubt very popular, Android app.
I get it that working with audio is not easy, and developing on a single platform is much more appealing. But honestly, if you’re not developing both iOS and Android at the same time you are basically disenfranchising most of the world.
Does it really matter? Well, if you want to have fully representative user-base, you might want to ensure that people who don’t spend $500+ on their phones are able to use it. And if you aspire to reach users in countries like India, then maybe it’s worth building an Android version?
There are more subtle things too. On some platforms there can be “first mover advantages” in being early. If you’re in at the beginning, you can grow your audience/followers/subscribers more quickly. Someone starting later, might find it harder.
In the end, I suspect that one or more of the existing players will probably dominate “social audio”, and that Clubhouse will at best get sold. (It’s VC backed, so of course, cashing out is the end goal.) Discord will probably be the winner.