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Clubhouse is pivoting from live audio to group messaging

It’s unclear if the company will be able to return to the same buzzy highs of 2021, when it attracted millions of users.

Clubhouse

Clubhouse, once the Silicon Valley darling of pandemic-era social media, announced earlier this year that it was laying off half its staff as its founders pivoted to building “Clubhouse 2.0.” Now, the company is sharing the results of its big reset, with a redesign meant to make Clubhouse “more like a messaging app.”

The audio app is pivoting from its signature “drop-in” audio conversations to friend-centric voice chats, the company said in an update. Instead of sprawling rooms where users host live-streamed conversations open to any and all of the app’s users, the new Clubhouse will instead encourage users to join groups with people they know.

The groups are, somewhat confusingly, called “chats,” and allow friends and friends-of-friends to exchange voice messages. There’s still a “drop-in” element, but it’s less focused on real-time talking and geared more toward something like an Instagram Story — a destination for checking in and sharing quick updates. The app is also ditching text-based direct messages in favor of private audio messages which, yes, it’s calling voicemails or VMs.

The biggest shift, however, isn’t just the format of the conversations but that Clubhouse is now positioning itself as more of a Snapchat, where smaller groups of friends communicate privately or semi-privately, than a Twitter, where all the app's users are shouting into the void. “It’s not about passively listening to people speaking,” the company wrote in an update. “You can listen to great conversations on podcasts, YouTube, TikTok, and a lot of other platforms. It’s about talking with people … and becoming real-life friends with your friends’ friends, and people you never would have met otherwise.”

While the pivot to messaging app may make more sense given the steep decline in engagement Clubhouse saw after pandemic restrictions eased, it’s unclear if the company will be able to return to the same buzzy highs of 2021, when it attracted millions of users and a multibillion-dollar valuation. Clubhouse, whose founders claimed earlier this year that they had “years of runway remaining,” seem like they aren’t taking success for granted their second time around.

They ended their announcement of the redesign with a bit of caution. “It’s a big bet, and we hope we’re right…”