Facebook is creating an audio chat product to rival Clubhouse, report says

7:14 pm  |  10.02.2021

The company is the latest social network to jump on the bandwagon for live-audio chat.

Facebook is reportedly throwing its hat in the ring to compete with Clubhouse, the buzzy social app based on audio chats.

The social media giant’s employees have been ordered to develop a product, known internally as Fireside, that’s similar to Clubhouse, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing two people with knowledge of the matter. An invite-only social media app, Clubhouse has been attracting more attention after high-profile tech executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk made surprise appearances on the app. Clubhouse lets you create online spaces to group chat with multiple people about a variety of topics. 

Facebook has a track record of cloning popular products or purchasing its rivals. Last year, the company released Messenger Rooms to compete with video app Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook-owned Instagram has a feature that rivals short-form video app TikTok. Called Reels, the tool lets users post 15-second videos. Facebook also lets users post content that disappears in 24 hours on its main social network, its photo service Instagram and its messaging app WhatsApp, a format that Facebook copied from disappearing-message app Snapchat. 

Asked about the Times report, a Facebook spokeswoman said the following in a statement: “We’ve been connecting people through audio and video technologies for many years and are always exploring new ways to improve that experience for people.” She added that the company is always experimenting but that Facebook doesn’t have anything new to announce.

Other companies are also experimenting with live audio. Twitter is testing an audio group chat feature called Spaces. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban has also been working on a live-audio chat app that competes with Clubhouse, The Verge reported on Monday.

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Facebook’s push into audio content could also pose challenges to the social network, which is already struggling to moderate misinformation and other offensive content. Vice reported on Wednesday that misinformation about the coronavirus has been spreading on Clubhouse without getting moderated. Clubhouse didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but its site mentions that it has rules against hate speech and other offensive content.

Clubhouse was launched in 2020 by Alpha Exploration co-founder Paul Davison and former Google employee Rohan Seth.

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