The Berlin bubble has a new toy: the Clubhouse chat app promises diversion in difficult times. Does the hype last?
VIt is probably due to Corona that “Clubhouse” in Germany has recently met with such enthusiasm. In times of lockdown, there is a lack of opportunities for friendly chat and in-depth discussion. The app wants to offer both, interestingly both informally and exclusively, although exclusivity on the Internet is known to be a flexible term. In any case, an astonishingly large number of people are “in” talking about it, primarily on the now somewhat lackluster short message platform Twitter. They rave about “exciting discussions” about social media and democracy in audio format – with over 1000 people in virtual space. Observers consider the run on the clubhouse and the coveted invitations to be a phenomenon of the underutilized Berlin political bubble.
But that fails to recognize the international origins of this virtual clubhouse, in which new chat rooms are always opening up with new participants. The app is not even a year old, it was released last April. Behind her are Paul Davison and Rohan Seth and the company they founded Alpha Explorations from near San Francisco. Both founders have already made a name for themselves in the internet industry. Davison worked for the photo platform Pinterest for a few years after taking over an app he had developed; Seth was previously with Google. With Clubhouse they quickly found well-known financiers. Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $ 12 million and valued the company at $ 100 million.
Also there: TV icon Oprah
The app was initially particularly popular in the tech scene, Horowitz also helped attract high-profile celebrities from the entertainment industry, which brought the platform further attention. Members include rapper Drake and television icon Oprah Winfrey. Because the app initially spread in such circles and new users have so far only been admitted by invitation, it has an elitist reputation. The founders, on the other hand, claim that Clubhouse is not intended as an “exclusive” platform. They worked to make the service available to everyone as quickly as possible, but also felt it was important to slowly build up the user communities. The website has been saying for some time that the clubhouse should open soon. According to a report by the “New York Times”, the app had 600,000 users last, vanishingly few compared to major online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. To date, Clubhouse only runs on iPhones, there is still no version of the app for mobile phones with the Android operating system.
However, that does not explain how the clubhouse miracle sparked so quickly in Germany. In the United States, the success was more sluggish and built up slowly over months, while in Germany the increase was more meteoric; Since the weekend there seems to have been hardly any other topic, if you disregard the usual speculations about new corona measures. The specialist magazine “Online Marketing Rockstars” traces how the clubhouse app has spread exponentially in Germany since the beginning of January. Accordingly, the two podcasters Phillipp Gloeckler and Philipp Klöckner had managed to get invitations to Clubhouse. The two are marketing professionals, and they are producing a podcast, which is called Doppelganger because of the similar-sounding name, and in which the two marketing and digital experts talk about technology topics. In this exclusive ambience she wanted to have a conversation with her audience, which she had to gain access to herself first.
Media professionals at work
To do this, they founded a Telegram group in which the invitations were coordinated. As OMR describes it, there is always greater interest in other influencers and celebrities who join Clubhouse and report on it; further regional Telegram groups will be opened. This creates a digital avalanche: On Tuesday, Clubhouse is the most downloaded iPhone app in all of Germany.
As quickly as the spread, concerns about possible data protection violations have grown, after all, there is the claim that you can only use the app if you also make your mobile phone contacts available to the company. This leads the Federal Data Protection Officer Ulrich Kelber to the provocative question of whether the clubhouse users have also asked their contacts for consent beforehand.
This can only be assumed in rare cases, but the app can also be used without sharing address data. In this case you cannot invite anyone. Beyond these concerns, Clubhouse has also been criticized for not doing enough to moderate content and for providing a platform for racist, anti-Semitic or misogynistic statements. In the meantime, the app is supposed to be a real playground for it. Clubhouse itself promised in October to invest in the moderation of the service and not to tolerate violations of user rules.
How sustainable the hype will be in Germany remains to be seen. He wouldn’t be the first to die away quickly. If the feeling of exclusivity has been lost, it depends on what added value the app actually offers. Will it then only be about digital panel discussions? Or do politicians and celebrities actually speak more openly here than in front of TV cameras?