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What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is one of the latest social apps to whip up interest among everyone from tech bros and students to socialites and celebrities. While the app is still brand new, it’s already thriving on exclusivity and a unique, audio-based approach to social conversations — one that’s particularly relevant to today’s social landscape.

But you’re here for the details, so let’s dig in. Here are the common questions about Clubhouse and everything you should know as the app continues to grow in popularity.

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What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a drop-in audio chat app with a focus on creating social chat rooms, which are spaces for casually chatting with friends and other interesting people (not to be confused with the team-management app Clubhouse, which is entirely different). It was founded by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth.

Clubhouse is almost entirely focused on audio, facilitating direct conversations between a group of people or between a speaker and a group. Rooms can be created for a variety of purposes: Topical discussions, chats with close friends, open-format digital panels, preaching a sermon, planning a party, or just meeting new people. In addition to rooms, there are also clubs — groups of users dedicated to a particular topic.

Clubhouse is currently in a lengthy beta that began back in early 2020 and has generated interest due to celebrity use. It’s valued at around $100 million.

Where can I get the Clubhouse app?

Currently, Clubhouse is available only as a download on the App Store for iPhone — and even then, entry is only possible with a referral.

Does Clubhouse cost money?

No. Clubhouse is currently free to use, and there are no options for paying fees for higher tiers of service. Since the app is still in beta, we don’t know if that will always be the case.

Who uses Clubhouse?

The beta became popular with celebrities in 2020 and is populated by the likes of Oprah, Kevin Hart, Ashton Kutcher, Drake, Jared Leto, Ava DuVernay, Tiffany Haddish, Virgil Abloh, Chris Rock … and others on a growing list. That became one of the immediate draws to the app — who wouldn’t want to join a chat room and hear a favorite celebrity talking about current events like they were all a bunch of friends?

Tech leaders have also shown interest in Clubhouse: Among those creating accounts are Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover, and a broad collection of venture capitalists and CEOs.

In addition to that feeling of exclusivity, Clubhouse has become a way for friends to find private spaces for casual talk, especially when in-person conversations may not be possible. In the rooms, which can hold thousands of listeners at once, you can find discussions about the latest Netflix binge, how to have a happy marriage, how to keep houseplants from dying, new tracks from favorite artists, and a lot of people jamming out. It’s no surprise the app has become a collaborative enabler for trendsetters and creatives, but if you just want to chill and skip through random rooms to see what people are talking about, that’s allowed, too.

Is Clubhouse safe to use?

There are two important concerns with Clubhouse (rated 17+ on the App Store), and both are still developing issues. Here’s where things stand.

The first concerns revolve around privacy and security. Are user conversations safe? Can any sensitive data be hacked? Since Clubhouse is still in beta, there’s not a lot of real-world exposure to reveal any vulnerabilities. There aren’t any reports of current users complaining about privacy issues or security problems, but the sample size is too small for now. We’ll have to wait for a full rollout and expanded details before we learn more.

For now, you can read Clubhouse’s privacy policy to get an idea of what the app collects — which is just about everything. That includes “content, communications, and other information you provide,” as well as temporary audio records of live Clubhouse rooms (the company uses them to review trust and safety violation reports). The app also says it collects information about actions taken, accounts interacted with, and types of conversations. That’s about rock bottom as far as privacy expectations go: Clubhouse is simply not a great pick if you want to keep your interactions to yourself.

But that brings us to the second key concern — which conversations are allowed inside Clubhouse and how they’re controlled. For any given room, Clubhouse depends on a moderator to flag inappropriate or dangerous content, as well as silence or remove users. Other users can also report a specific conversation for violations. But if moderators don’t flag content or users don’t report it soon enough (before the audio is automatically deleted), then a Clubhouse room can turn toxic.

And that’s not just a theory. Even in beta, Clubhouse has faced claims of enabling sexism, racism, and harassment. Like many other social media platforms, the conversations can be fascinating and fun with proper moderation but subject to misuse and abuse when out of control. It’s an old problem, but one underscored by the immediacy of Clubhouse’s audio chats and inability to search the past history of users.

Can anyone start using Clubhouse?

Sort of. Anyone with iOS can download the app. But getting on the beta requires an invite. You can sign up for a waiting list to receive an automatic invite, although it’s not certain when the waiting list will be processed. Still, you can at least reserve a username if you’d like.

If you do manage to get a personal invite to Clubhouse, you can upload a picture if you want, then check which rooms are currently live and which are scheduled and upcoming. As you follow people and add details like your location, the app will start showing you rooms based on your interests.

How do you get an invite to Clubhouse?

If you don’t want to try the waitlist, you’ll need a direct invite from someone else already using the app, a step that has only added to the exclusive feel of Clubhouse. Every member has just one invite at first, plus three more invites after extensive use.

Can I use Clubhouse on my computer?

No. You can visit the placeholder website, but there’s not much to do there. At this time, you can only download the iOS app for iPhone or iPad. If you really want to, you can switch to iOS apps when browsing on your Mac and download the app that way, but it will not be optimized in any way for MacOS.

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