Telegram Launches Social Audio Voice Chats 2.0 Service With Unlimited Participants
Secure messaging service Telegram has debuted a social audio platform called Voice Chats 2.0. The new feature allows for live voice chats in Telegram Channels for unlimited participants. The result is much like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces albeit with some twists unique to Telegram. Voice Chats 2.0 is an expansion of the Voice Chats option introduced in December that was limited to private Telegram groups rather than the more public channels.
Telegram’s Voice Chats maintain the same name as the group conversation feature, but with no limit to participant numbers, it ends up functioning like other social audio apps. Any channel administrator can set up a room and attendees can join a public chat at any point. Admins can set the rules for who is automatically muted, and the audience can digitally raise their hand, starting an animation designed to attract the moderator’s attention and get them to unmute the attendee to ask their question. Admins can also create invite links to send in their chats that will open the voice chat, either as a speaker or just a listener.
“Admins of channels and public groups can now host voice chats for millions of live listeners,” Telegram explained in announcing Voice Chats 2.0. “No matter how popular your talk gets, new people will be able to tune in. It’s like public radio reinvented for the 21st century.”
Records and Aliases
There are some notable differences in Telegram’s approach to social audio compared to potential rivals like Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces. The biggest is probably the ability for admins to record the voice chats directly, as opposed to the third-party workarounds needed to do the same with Clubhouse. The audio is saved into the admin’s messages for future publication and let people who couldn’t hear it live experience the chat for themselves. To warn participants when a voice chat is being recorded, a very obvious red light appears next to the voice chat’s when the admin begins recording the audio in the room. The other most immediate difference in Telegram is that people can participate under a personal account or as a channel they control. Clubhouse’s guidelines insist that brands shouldn’t have accounts, although some are already experimenting with the idea. But, Telegram’s developers think there are times when hiding behind a brand name might be appropriate.
“When entering a voice chat in a channel, users have the option to join with their personal account or appear as one of their channels. Celebrities and public figures can use this to avoid drawing too much attention to their personal accounts,” Telegram explained. “For example, the Presidents of Brazil and Turkey could meet for a talk in Pavel Durov’s Channel and answer questions from users without the risk of having their chat lists flooded with fan mail.”
As the social audio market explodes, Telegram clearly sees a chance to compete against Clubhouse, which passed 10 million users in late February. The unique Telegram features and its reputation as a secure messaging service are likely to entice many to at least try hosting voice chats on the platform. Telegram also has a somewhat unique connection to Clubhouse via the social audio experiments in Russia, where Tinkoff Bank set up its Oleg voice assistant as the first voice AI on Clubhouse, including transcribing conversations on Clubhouse to a Telegram account and relaying information typed into Telegram back to people on Clubhouse. Rival platforms from startups like Quilt and Swell as well as creations like Twitter Spaces and the Instagram Live Rooms provide contrast for Telegram, which is not as ubiquitous as Twitter but has a firmly established brand and community that could give it an advantage in social audio.