Clubhouse Surpasses 10 Million Users After Musk, Zuckerberg, Rogan, and MrBeast Join and Starts Drawing More Scrutiny
Independent researcher Vajresh Balaji reported last week that the social audio network Clubhouse surpassed 10 million registered users as of February 13, 2021. Balaji has been tracking Clubhouse’s user base since April of 2020 when it first launched as a beta app through Apple iOS Testflight. The app crested 10,000 users in early October and hit a million in December not long after invites were given out to many of the early users to invite their friends.
By the end of January, Balaji was reporting five million users and then six million a week later. These figures include active users as well as people that had downloaded the app to reserve their user name but were not yet in the app. So, the actual active users were below this figure and it is not clear by how much. However, he was validating these figures by seeing active users on the platform. Balaji was using a method for tracking users based on a sequential ID assigned to each new Clubhouse user. Shortly after he reported the six million figure, Clubhouse changed its method for assigning user IDs and effectively obscured total user numbers.
Big Names Accelerate Awareness and Adoption
However, he recently reported that a trusted source was able to confirm the acceleration of registered users has continued to increase. The user base was already growing quickly in early January as you can see in Balaji’s chart. Elon Musk then appeared on the Clubhouse Good Time show hosted by Sriram Krishnan and Aarthi Ramamurthy. The event concluded with Musk bringing Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev up on stage and interviewing him about Game Stop saga.
A few days later, Mark Zuckerberg showed up in Good Time show later as did former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In between, YouTube sensation MrBeast also made an appearance and then hosted his own room for a discussion with fellow social media entertainers. Every day a new celebrity from entertainment, media, politics, sports, or business appears in a room for the first time. It’s not as if celebrities weren’t already on Clubhouse in 2020. Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Jared Leto, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Hart, and many more preceded the recent hype. However, most of them joined before invitations were made freely available so their presence didn’t necessarily lead to more sign-ups. The recent notable Clubhouse users came at a time when invites were becoming increasingly available.
More Growth, New Scrutiny
Clubhouse received some media attention last fall when a conversation among users devolved into anti-semitic sentiment. That story was short-lived in part because the social network was still closed at the time and had relatively few users. Now it has many users and the hype has increased which means there is heightened interest in every facet of the app. A couple of weeks ago the focus was on Clubhouse’s Chinese connection by way of its technology partner Agora and the implications for privacy. This week the concerns have evolved to include security flaws in the app architecture.
These issues may raise concerns among some consumers but it doesn’t appear to be slowing user growth. It may be that the risk isn’t tangible yet in the absence of a specific user that can point to a negative outcome. Or, it may be that consumers become accustomed to the notion that every technology-based service is accompanied by privacy and security concerns and as of today they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Clubhouse is an incubator for social audio and is providing a roadmap for what the fast-followers need to address before they reach scale.
Voice AI, Clubhouse, and Social Audio
An industry like voice AI which is focused on conversations would seem to be very comfortable with a conversation-first social network. And, a robust community has popped up which is filling in the gap for networking and socialization that conferences filled in pre-COVID. Voicebot hosts two weekly events at 3 pm EST, Conversation AI Innovators on Mondays and the Conversational AI Happy Hour on Fridays. Where else are you getting anywhere from 50-200 voice AI professionals having a chat and engaging around industry topics multiple times each week?
Clubhouse can exist just fine without any conversational AI. In fact, there is no way to add a voice assistant or virtual human to a conversation today. However, Clubhouse does have some key limitations today that AI technologies such as speech-to-text, NLP, speech analytics, and sentiment analysis can address.
There is already a clamoring among users for more in-app analytics. Some of this can be easily addressed simply by counting the people in the room, tracking the number of speakers, and measuring the duration of audio. Voice AI technology can take this to another level with topic analysis, automated quote extraction, sentiment, and emotion tracking. There will be dozens of social audio networks beyond Clubhouse. All of them are likely to need these tools. Clubhouse has shown us there is consumer demand for social audio and all of them will be considering what features will help them differentiate and best serve users. Voice AI technologies will definitely be in that consideration set.