Among early adopters, the most coveted item this time last year was not hand sanitizers or Clorox cloths, but a username on Clubhouse, the only social media audio platform that made Silicon Valley stand out when it was launched in the spring. Access demanded an invitation from someone who was already in the app, and these were so in demand during the lonely months of quarantine that someone sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay. The clubhouse was hailed as the future of social media by many outlets (including this one) as the waiting list grew to 10 million.
Today, these invitations are worthless: Klubbhuset had its long-awaited general release on Wednesday, which means that everyone can now create an account by downloading the app. And yet the masses do not seem to be in a hurry. The app had 484,000 new installations globally between July 21
For an app that only recently knocked out Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp in global app stores, it’s a mediocre debut. Clubhouse has previously said that the invitation system was the key to growing “in a measured way”, on board new users in groups and expanding functions such as DMs as needed. Without its exclusivity, however, Clubhouse seems to have lost some of its hype.
“Selling my clubhouse is inviting,” joked tech blogger Jane Manchun Wong on Wednesday as the app announced it would be available for general download. “You may have to pay people to take them away from you,” said Alex Lieberman, chairman of Morning Brew, in an e-mail newsletter favored by the millennial business district. Morning Brew had recently declared Clubhouse “over”, noting that the app felt less “like Soho House – exclusive and therefore mysteriously cool” and more “like an open house.”
The clubhouse is still growing in some markets, especially outside the United States. In June, the app had 7.7 million new downloads, of which 5.8 million came from India. International growth was an important part of Clubhouse’s latest fundraiser, where investors valued the app at $ 4 billion. Nevertheless, since user growth in the US slowed down, some have questioned whether the app can live up to the valuation. “NFTs or clubhouse rating, which is the biggest bubble?” technical analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted earlier this year. And last week, tech publicist Ed Zitron called the clubhouse’s general release “the big stink that no one wants to talk about.”
The clubhouse points to its international growth as proof that people still like being on the app. “Globally, we have seen the number of rooms created daily rise from 300,000 in May to 400,000 in June to 500,000 in July, indicating an increasing number of dedicated users,” a spokesman wrote via email. But it also faces more competition now than it did when it was first launched. Facebook and Twitter both created live audio features over the past year, with ways for audio creators to monetize their content. Discord, the audio chat app that was originally popular with gamers, was touted as a place for creators of all kinds to “talk and hang out”. The social isolation of the pandemic was a tailwind for many digital platforms; now they have to compete with each other for the creators and the content that makes the users come back.