Thursday, March 4, 2021

What is Clubhouse? – The New York Times

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The focus on audio, rather than text, photos or videos, is a differentiator and part of the appeal. Delia Cai, of the newsletter Deez Links, wrote of her experience on the app: “It felt spontaneous, low-commitment and blessedly did not involve turning any kind of camera on.”

As its name suggests, Clubhouse is built on exclusivity: You have to be invited in by an existing user. Early members of the club include Silicon Valley venture capitalists (Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, both early investors in the app), web-savvy entrepreneurs (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss), a smattering of performers and cultural influencers (Tiffany Haddish, Drake, Virgil Abloh) and people with random claims to fame (Vanilla Ice, Roger Stone).

Clubhouse has been criticized by some for its male-dominated, bro-y energy (though plenty of women are on the platform, too). Its open information exchange has also made it popular with users from countries with repressive governments. China blocked Clubhouse this month. Right now, the app, which is still in the beta stage, has the rare (and likely fleeting) feeling of a small world. It’s still a surprise when you bump someone you know, or when, say, Senator Tim Kaine pops up in a chat room.

Clubhouse can at times reflect Silicon Valley’s relentless focus on personal optimization. Networking, weight training, retiring early, pitching investors and Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin — the hustle culture is real and present. But there is also a huge theater scene with staged plays and a dating scene, too. And conversations are often free-form, meandering and completely unscripted. That unpolished quality is part of the charm.

A recent weeknight offered a talk show, “Housin’ Around,” hosted by the comedian Alexis Gay; a pitch event for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas; a talk entitled “Forming Black Creative Spaces in Fashion”; and Karaoke on Clubhouse, among other discussions. Daily and weekly shows have begun to emerge from the formlessness, like “The Cotton Club,” an after-hours chill zone hosted by the musician Bomani X, and “Good Time,” which recaps the day’s tech news every night at 10 p.m. Pacific time. Bouncing between the rooms is easy and much of the fun.



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