Clubhouse has experienced a meteoric rise in recent weeks. Powered by an influx of high-profile, very online, users it has shot to the top of the iOS App Store charts in some countries. There have also been high-profile appearances from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. But what actually is it? And what can you do on it?

What Actually is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is, in essence, an app that facilitates audio-only chat rooms. It’s free and only available for iPhone. The crucial thing to remember is that the conversations on the app take place live and there is no facility within the app itself to record them (yet).

Upon joining, users select topics that they are interested in and are shown contacts who are already on the app. There are quite a lot of topic options, and this influences the rooms that subsequently get flagged up on the homepage. (These can be changed in Settings at any point.) Users can follow people and they can follow back, in the traditional social media way.

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Notification Overload And Privacy Concerns

Clubhouse, by default at least, seems to send out a lot notifications, encouraging users to join in or listen to conversations. This is somewhat annoying, and again can be altered in settings.

There are also some privacy… if not concerns, then certainly things to watch out for. Most notably, the iOS App Store privacy report for Clubhouse indicates that it knows both your name email address, and phone number, plus has access to your contacts. Obviously, it has access to your phone’s audio too to enable both talking and listening. I certainly got notifications regarding people long buried, and sometimes forgotten, in my phonebook, which can be disconcerting.

Having Your Say

The way to speak on Clubhouse is either by starting a room or being invited to speak by the person who started it. There are three different types of room – ‘Open’, which anyone can join, ‘Social’, only open to those the person that who launched it follows, and ‘Closed’ invite-only rooms. The system is obviously designed to try and limit trolling or hijacking of conversations – there’s no text box or even emoji reactions.

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Who Can Access Clubhouse

At the time of this writing, Clubhouse is invite-only. Wannabe users either have to join the waitlist have someone already on it nominate them. Once you join, you then get five invites. This is part of the reason the app, initially at least, got a reputation for being, well… a bit elitist, to be honest. As it’s got more popular, and more people have got invites, it has definitely opened up a bit.

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