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Silicon Valley’s hottest and latest social platform Clubhouse is being promoted by celebrities and users alike. The app has a sense of exclusivity to it and billions of dollars secured in funding to turn some important heads. Mint explores the reasons for its growing popularity

What is Clubhouse and how does it function?

It’s an audio-only social media app. Unlike other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, interactions on Clubhouse don’t use text, images or videos. Instead, the platform allows users to create rooms and “clubs" and start interacting. While Facebook etc. depend on your network of friends and acquaintances, Clubhouse is more like TikTok and tries to understand the user’s interests. It wants users to create communities around topics that interest them and talk to others about the same. Each room is divided into speakers and listeners and has moderators who are expected to keep things in check.

Why is the platform going viral of late?

While the app has existed since 2019, it became Silicon Valley’s most talked-about platform last year, after many celebrities started taking interest in it, thereby increasing its visibility. The app raised $1 billion in its Series B funding last year, led by US-based venture firm Andreesen Horowitz. Facebook and Tesla chiefs Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk recently made surprise appearances on Clubhouse, further extending the platform’s popularity. The Indian startup industry has also taken a keen interest, with Cred founder Kunal Shah, Razorpay’s Harshil Mathur and others joining the platform.

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Can anyone join Clubhouse, or is it mostly exclusive?

The app is in an extended beta period right now and you need an invite from an existing user to join it. Even those who are on the platform get a limited number of invites and only iPhone users will be able to join the platform as of now. Clubhouse invites have become so coveted that they are being sold for money through various forums and platforms on the internet.

Are conversations on Clubhouse recorded?

Strictly speaking, yes. Clubhouse claims it records chats while they are happening “solely for incident investigations". That is, if someone reports abusive behaviour in a room. The app’s privacy policy says these recordings are encrypted while they are retained and deleted once an investigation is complete. The app says it records audio only from those who are listening to discussions. Further, there is no way for a user to record an ongoing conversation using external devices or by taking screenshots of the app.

Why is the industry so excited about the app?

Interest-based networks have been hailed as the next big thing for social  media. For example, TikTok’s base  comes  from  the algorithm that can understand interest, instead of trying to work out acquaintances. Experts say that Facebook’s focus on relationships keeps you within a “walled garden" of peers. Interest-based networks can allow users to expand their network in new ways. Clubhouse could literally put regular users in the same room as celebrities, something that Facebook and Twitter would never allow.

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