Clubhouse Rolls Out ‘Backchannel’ Text Messaging
Social audio app Clubhouse augmented the vocal conversation on its platform with a new text communication feature called Backchannel. The direct messaging service enables users to text with each other while on the app, either one-to-one or in a group chat, without interrupting the audio discussion or requiring a different communications tool.
Backchannels are accessible by tapping the paper airplane icon on the bottom of the screen when the app is open. From there, users can pick one or more of their contacts to send messages to and type away like they would in any standard text message. The technology is not groundbreaking, but the release is still a notable change for Clubhouse, which has made much of its exclusively audio presentation. Multiple leaks about the text feature over the last few weeks made the news less of a surprise but still caused something of a stir on the app, with a lot of rooms immediately set up to talk about Backchannels and their value. According to the startup, the goal was to simplify setting up, coordinating, and running the rooms on behalf of both the moderators and the audience.
“If you’re a speaker, you can use Backchannel to chat with your co-hosts, plan what question to ask next, or decide who to pull up from the audience. If you’re a listener, you can chat with your other friends in the audience any time you’re in a room,” Clubhouse explained in a blog post about the new feature. “If you’re a speaker, you can now take questions from people via text—and use that to decide who to call up from the audience. If you’re a listener, you can now submit questions, even if you’re not able to come up on stage.”
The chat function makes Clubhouse closer to some of its social audio rivals. Many of them approach social audio from the other direction, starting as pure text before adding audio functions like Twitter Spaces, Discord’s Stage Channels, or Facebook’s new Live Audio Rooms. Internally, the text function will likely be a help for Clubhouse as it focuses more on finding and supporting content. Texting between hosts or with audience members might help TED Talk hosts and those in Creator First program improve how smoothly their shows run and thus keep people interested in the app. The startup has plans for more new features soon, possibly designed to up the social element of Clubhouse for its next revamp.
“When you meet people on Clubhouse, it’s nice to be able to keep the conversation going after the room ends. Now with Backchannel, you can,” Clubhouse wrote. “There are a lot of additional features we’re working on for v2, and so stay tuned over the coming weeks for a steady stream of updates.