Drop-in audio chat app Clubhouse has caused a real buzz since it was launched, so much so that Twitter and other social media platforms are scrambling to create their own versions of it. Twitter Spaces not only shares very similar functionality, but it actually looks very similar in some ways too. There are some differences too, though.
The enthusiasm for Clubhouse since its launch in March 2020 has been a surprise to its founders Rohan Seth and Paul Davison as much as anyone. In June last year, they explained in a blog post that their intention had been to “collect feedback, quietly iterate, and avoid making noise” until they felt the app was ready, but that, “For a number of reasons, the ‘build quietly’ approach didn’t work.” One of those reasons has been the appearances of various high-profile individuals on the platform, like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. This has contributed to the app being downloaded 3.5 million times by February 1 this year and to that exploding to 8.1 million by February 16. However, the likes of Twitter and Facebook had already spotted the app’s potential.
It first came to light that Twitter was working on its Spaces feature in November last year, just nine months after Clubhouse launched, meaning work had already been underway on it for some time. When it announced that Spaces was live and testing was underway in December, Twitter said: “The human voice can bring a layer of connectivity to Twitter through emotion, nuance and empathy often lost in text.” Clubhouse, in its earlier introductory blog post, had written: “The intonation, inflection and emotion conveyed through voice allow you to pick up on nuance and form uniquely human connections with others.”
A good starting point for comparison is to note that Clubhouse is an app in itself, whereas Spaces is simply a feature among many within Twitter. This informs the experience of each. The Clubhouse home screen provides a feed of rooms a user can join and routes to other parts of the app like a user’s calendar and notifications. In this sense, it is actually like Twitter. Users can explore content and find others to follow — the whole experience is conducted from here.
The audio element of Twitter, though, is flipped on its head. Users already have people they are following and the stream of tweets from those they follow is the main focus. As such, Spaces are accessed via the Fleets section at the top of the home screen. The Fleets icon of someone a user follows appears differently if they are hosting a Space and the user can enter by tapping on it when that is the case. As Spaces develops, of course, there’s every chance Twitter may add a discovery page of some sort for it in the menu.
Once in a Room or Space, the experience — and, indeed, the look and feel — is quite similar. Users will immediately hear any conversation that is ongoing and will see the icons of speakers and audience members. Clicking on those icons will pull up the person’s profile where their bio info can be viewed and they can be followed. Following someone on Twitter, though, means following their tweets too, not just their audio activity.
Up until now, both Clubhouse and Spaces had only been available on iOS. It now appears, though, that Spaces is also being tested on Android, beating Clubhouse to the punch. With both Clubhouse and Spaces still in beta, both will likely change to some extent before they are launched to the public.