Have you been following the meteoric rise of the Clubhouse app? It caught my attention a little while back and I’ve been fascinated to watch its popularity rocket. If you’re not in the know yet and looking to find out more about Clubhouse, then read on.
Of course, being a language services provider, I couldn’t resist taking a look at Clubhouse from a language e-learning stance. I’ll go into detail on that below too.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
Start looking into Clubhouse and you’ll see the words ‘exclusive,’ ‘invitation only’ and ‘celebrity’ within seconds. In a nutshell, Clubhouse is an audio-chat based social networking app. Various interesting people take part in discussions, interviews and conversations. It’s like a cross between a live podcast and a social network.
Once you’ve been invited to join Clubhouse (more on that below), you can drop in on the conversations taking place in various virtual rooms. Opening the app shows you which rooms are available and who is in them. You raise your hand (digitally speaking) if you want to talk. Otherwise, you simply listen – you can’t text, video call, share pictures or anything else.
Clubhouse is used to host discussions, often led by celebrities, experts, business leaders, journalists and the like. Common topics include popular culture and the arts, though this is evolving rapidly as venture capitalists, investors and business owners continue to cotton on to Clubhouse’s potential to expand their operations and thus line their pockets. Anyone can create a room of their own – hence the rapidly expanding commercial interest in Clubhouse’s potential.
Users can choose which clubs to join, with a huge range available. From the Afropolitan Lounge to the Astrology and Metaphysics club, the wealth of topics and interests serves is staggering – and continues to grow.
At a basic level, Clubhouse also leverages social networking, with celebrity usage of the app spurring many to flock to hear their idols speak.
This celebrity endorsement has been a major factor behind Clubhouse’s dramatic rise to fame. Paul Davison and Rohan Seth of Alpha Exploration Co first launched their new product on 8th April 2020. By 21st January 2021, the Clubhouse app was valued at $1 billion. That’s some impressive growth in just nine months.
Celebrity involvement in the app has seen some of the world’s most well-known names becoming accessible like never before. Elon Musk, Jared Leto, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey and Tiffany Haddish are among those who have helped to drive the growth of Clubhouse in the US, for example. In Germany, two podcast hosts – Philipp Gloeckler and Philipp Klöckner – used a dedicated Telegram group to rapidly snowball the spread of the app through encouraging users to share their invites.
And it is this use of invites that is the other key factors behind the growth of the Clubhouse app. It’s commonly accepted that limiting the availability of something is a sure-fire way to create demand and Clubhouse has done this with aplomb. ‘How do I get a Clubhouse invite?’ has been asked by would-be Clubhouse users across the globe in recent weeks.
Are you looking to get a Clubhouse app invite? If so, you’re far from alone! While anyone can download Clubhouse and open it, all you can do at that point is reserve a username and join the waiting list.
If you want to be able to do more than wait, the quickest way to do so is to ask a friend with a Clubhouse account to invite you. Each user gets to invite two other people. Apparently, the end goal is for the app to be available to all, but it’s not yet a general release – it’s still in beta.
Clubhouse says that it is limiting growth in user numbers in this way to make sure that, “things don’t break, [it] keeps the composition of the community diverse, and allows us to tune the product as it grows.” The fact that the air of exclusivity this has generated has fuelled a global desire to be involved is either a happy by-product of this or a superb marketing strategy. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
When you extend a Clubhouse invitation to someone, you have to give the app permission to access your contacts. Each and every one of them. You can still use the app without sharing your contacts, but you can’t invite anyone else.
This is a major red flag to anyone who values their data privacy. And it’s far from the only data privacy and security issue that Clubhouse is known for. In the UK, the Guardian newspaper has been critical of its seeming lack of compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), referring to Clubhouse as a “US-based data-hoovering startup.”
Over in Germany, meanwhile, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (the country’s largest consumer protection organisation), in February 2021 called on the Clubhouse app owner, Alpha Exploration Co. to cease and desist from “illegal business practices and data protection violations.”
In the US, it is Stanford University's Internet Observatory, headed up by former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, that has been issuing Clubhouse-related warnings. The observatory has reported that it is working with Clubhouse to improve its security as a result of a number of flaws. Chief among the concerns is the fact that unique user IDs are transmitted in plaintext. There’s also the fact that the app’s back-end infrastructure is provided by Agora, which has offices in Shanghai, thus opening up concern about access to Clubhouse data by the Chinese authorities.
Then there’s the fact that the app is reported to create shadow profiles for users’ contacts, despite their having never used the app themselves.
And, most recently, on 21 February 2021, Clubhouse has had to deal with a data spill, after a user streamed audio from the app to another website.
Clearly, if you value the privacy of your data – and that of your contacts – there’s some thinking to be done before you accept a Clubhouse app invite.
Have the app’s privacy concerns put you off, or will you be rushing to download Clubhouse and join its waiting list the moment you’ve finished reading this? If it’s the latter, I should warn you that joining Clubhouse is currently entirely platform-dependent.
If you’re an iPhone owner, you’re in luck – you can join Clubhouse. Or at least join its waiting list. Simply download the Clubhouse iPhone app from the App Store.
If you’re an Android phone user, the news is not so good. At the time of writing, the Clubhouse Android app has yet to become a reality. Nor is the Clubhouse app owner in any hurry to confirm a date when it will be. In late January, Clubhouse confirmed that they would “begin work on our Android app soon.” This certainly seems to imply that Android hasn’t been a priority to date.
Clubhouse launched in the US but has rapidly captured interest from users around the world. The iOS-only nature of the app is limiting its growth in some countries; just 3% of smartphone owners in India, for example, use an Apple device. But elsewhere, the app is racing to the top of the download charts. If it’s not already at the top, that is.
Let me take a moment to run you through some of the Clubhouse app’s key userbases.
The US is where it all began. Clubhouse built up to a several thousand users there over the course of 2020, with various celebrities gradually enhancing the app’s popularity. However, it was Elon Musk presence on The Good Time Show on 2nd February 2021 that really kicked things up a notch. Musk chatted about space and Tesla, as well as interviewing Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on the issue of GameStop shares. Suddenly, Clubhouse went from counting user numbers in the thousands to counting them in the millions.
By January 2021, Clubhouse had three million users; by February it had six million. And the rest of the world has been joining citizens in the US in clamouring for invites.
In Germany, at the time of writing, Clubhouse is at number one in the country’s App Store. How to obtain a Clubhouse App invite has become a major topic of discussion. Invites are even being sold on eBay and Ebay Kleinanzeigen (think Craig’s List but in German), with some selling for as much as €250.
Clubhouse’s popularity in China has also rocketed, where users have been creating rooms to talk candidly about everything from the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to the human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Perhaps predictably, the Chinese government has now blocked access to Clubhouse.
Japan is estimated to account for an impressive 16% of all Clubhouse app downloads. It was key tech influencers who grew the app’s popularity there, in much the same way that Elon Musk contributed to it in the US. Tech leaders reached out to Japanese celebrities and suddenly the use of Clubhouse snowballed. Naomi Watanabe, an actress and fashion designer, collected more than 500,000 followers in her first fortnight on the app.
As with any new app, users are exploring how it can benefit time in different ways. They are rapidly tuning in to the app’s potential, using it for everything from enhancing their (perceived) social status to expanding their minds by viewing it as an e-learning platform.
We live in an age when chatting with a celebrity carries a certain social cachet. Clubhouse opens up access to celebrities like never before, meaning that plenty of users see it as a way to enhance their social credibility.
The varied nature of the discussions and clubs on the app means that it’s ideal for people who want to broaden their knowledge and expand their interests. The ability to drop in and out of rooms on a whim furthers this ability.
What is e-learning? It is the delivery of learning through electronic devices. Given the number of experts leading discussions on Clubhouse, there’s plenty of scope for users to acquire knowledge, albeit outside of a formal learning setting.
For people learning languages – and this is where I think that Clubhouse really comes into its own – the app provides the ultimate e-learning platform for those who have no-one to practice with. Imagine having access to hour after hour of spoken material to help you learn a second language, all focused on interesting topics that are relevant to your daily life.
Not only does Clubhouse provide this access, it also allows language learners to listen to speakers with a wide range of regional accents. This can be an invaluable tool when it comes to the kind of language acquisition that results in fluency.
Clubhouse can be a very handy second language learning tool, but I don’t see it overtaking the industry leaders in the language learning sector any time soon. Those include:
What are the best language learning programs? Progams such as Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo and the like are some of the best and most comprehensive online learning platforms for languages. They walk users through the language learning in clear, incremental steps.
What these language learning apps don’t do is provide the benefit of ongoing live discussion in the same way that Clubhouse does.
With the virtual world at their fingertips, many language learners are using new methods to boost their language acquisition progress. Those boosting their language learning with Netflix are a great example of this, as are those using the PS4’s chat functionality. Now, Clubhouse is throwing its hat in the ring as a popular language learning tool for 2021 and beyond.
Are you planning to use Clubhouse as part of your efforts to learn a second language? If so, it’s worth experimenting with different clubs based around your interests. Following conversations on topics you already know about tends to be easier when you’re listening in a second language. If the topic is new to you, as well as the language, then it can be much harder to get the gist of what is being said.
It’s also worth going for the total immersion approach to language acquisition, by using Clubhouse whenever you have a spare moment. Whether you’re cooking dinner or going for a walk, having the hum of conversation in the background can help attune you to the way a language sounds in terms of accents and emphasis, as well as serving to reinforce and expand your vocabulary. Many language learning websites speak to the value of immersing yourself in a second language in this way and it’s certainly something that Clubhouse can help with.
I hope this article has served to expand your knowledge of the Clubhouse app and its uses. Now that you know what Clubhouse is, why it’s popular, what the privacy concerns are and where it’s used, are you going to make the app one of your language e-learning tools?