It’s been just over three months since we started building Clubhouse and shared the early beta with a few friends. At the time, the app was very rough and we didn’t know what to expect. Our goal was to collect feedback, quietly iterate, and avoid making noise until we felt the product was ready for everyone.
For a number of reasons, the “build quietly” approach didn’t work. We are hugely grateful that people seem to care about the product and we’ve learned a lot from the feedback—both good and bad. Given all that’s been said, we wanted to share a bit of our early thinking on Clubhouse, our gratitude for the community and our plans for the future, so people understand how we’re approaching building this company. Thank you for reading! 🙏🏽
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is a new type of network based on voice. When you open the app you can see “rooms” full of people talking—all open so you can hop in and out, exploring different conversations. You enter each room as an audience member, but if you want to talk you just raise your hand, and the speakers can choose to invite you up. Or you can create a room of your own. It’s a place to meet with friends and with new people around the world—to tell stories, ask questions, debate, learn, and have impromptu conversations on thousands of different topics.
Clubhouse is voice-only, and we think voice is a very special medium. With no camera on, you don’t have to worry about eye contact, what you’re wearing, or where you are. You can talk on Clubhouse while you’re folding laundry, breastfeeding, commuting, working on your couch in the basement, or going for a run. Instead of typing something and hitting Send, you’re engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue with others. The intonation, inflection and emotion conveyed through voice allow you to pick up on nuance and form uniquely human connections with others. You can still challenge each other and have tough conversations—but with voice there is often an ability to build more empathy. This is what drew us to the medium.
Over the past three months on Clubhouse, people have shared their joy and dismay about Supreme Court decisions, their feelings of anger and helplessness over the murder of George Floyd, and their struggles navigating the challenges of home and work during COVID-19. There have been rooms with people from all walks of life finding common ground. We’ve seen people host book clubs, fireside chats, passionate debates, and comedy shows. When people have fallen asleep late at night, others in the room have “tucked them in”—quietly sending them back to the audience in order to mute their microphone. People seem to be coming back because it’s a place where they can talk for hours at a time and leave each day feeling better rather than worse, because they’ve deepened friendships, built new ones, and learned something new.
Why isn’t it open to the public yet?
We are building Clubhouse for everyone and working to make it available to the world as quickly as possible. It’s not intended to be exclusive; we just aren’t ready to ship the general release version yet. There are two reasons for this:
First, we think it’s important to grow communities slowly, rather than 10x-ing the user base overnight. This helps ensure that things don’t break, keeps the composition of the community diverse, and allows us to tune the product as it grows.
Second, we are a small team, and we haven’t yet finished building the features that will allow us to handle more people. Right now the two of us are the only full-time employees. We’ve benefitted from the support of many, and are actively hiring, but between infrastructure scaling, feature development, gathering product feedback, and general company building, there haven’t been many spare hours in the day. Plus we have four young kids between us jumping on our keyboards as we type! 😅
So what’s next?
Before we can move from a beta to a general release we want to ensure that the product can handle more people. Among other things, this means having robust community policies and tools to ensure that people have a great experience as the user base scales up.
Here are a few things that are top-of-mind for us as we work towards a broader release:
- More detailed community guidelines. We published an initial set of community guidelines, but there are still some important questions we are working to answer. How will we evaluate complaints of abuse or harassment when we don’t record user conversations? Will we consider suspending Clubhouse users for bad behavior on another network, or only for things that happen on Clubhouse? The major networks have spent years developing extremely detailed guidelines for these things. We’re working to make ours robust, and we expect them to evolve as the user base grows.
- In-app safety features. On every platform there are bad actors. As we move beyond the beta group, we’ll need better tools to protect people. On Clubhouse, there are some nuanced things to figure out. What does it mean to block one person in a conversation where multiple people are talking? Should we store conversations on our servers to help us investigate future complaints? We are shipping important privacy and blocking features later today, but before we launch widely we’d like to add better in-app reporting and a clearer process for investigating complaints.
- Tools to encourage inclusion. While we’ve aimed to foster a diverse set of voices in our early community, just adding diversity of sign-ups is not sufficient. How do we best collect input to understand how different identity groups experience Clubhouse? What are the subtle gender, race and other dynamics that can create imbalance on the platform? What tools could we make to highlight when these issues are happening, or to help ensure that more people have a voice? Would adding private rooms create more safe spaces, or exclusion and echo chambers?
These are important questions, and every “easy solution” has ripple effects. Fortunately we have an amazing group of beta testers who have spent hundreds of hours talking with us and sharing their feedback as we’ve worked to understand the nuances of this new medium.
We are immensely grateful to have this opportunity to build Clubhouse—and to everyone who has joined our early beta, shared what they love about it, sent us feedback, and pushed us to think harder about important issues. These are the things that will move this platform forward.
If you’re not yet on Clubhouse you can sign up for the waitlist here. We are so excited to welcome you to it and to hear what you think!
Paul and Rohan