It’s nothing new—Facebook is playing copycat again. This time, its alleged victim is Clubhouse – a drop-in audio chat app.
Facebook can be credited for many functions we consider to be normal or essential to social media today, and that’s a big part of why it’s still around 17 years after its release. But it would be remiss to claim that Facebook’s resume exclusively includes unique features.
In fact, it’s quite difficult to talk about changes Facebook has made in recent years without addressing the multiple times the platform has taken from its competitors. Recent reports claim that Facebook is setting out to copy for the umpteenth time.
Clubhouse Is the Subject of Facebook’s Newest Copycat Scheme
According to The New York Times, Facebook is working on an audio-focused social network to compete with Clubhouse, an invitation-only voice chat app that launched only last year.
We don’t know when Facebook started production its Clubhouse clone, but we do know that the team working on it currently refers to the product as “Fireside.” That codename is subject to change though since the product is still in its early development stages.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been interested in audio communication, says an unidentified source. That’s pretty vague. It could mean he’s kept an eye on it for some time, or that it only grabbed his attention recently.
Either way, Zuckerberg appeared on Clubhouse last Sunday to discuss augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR).
What Is Clubhouse?
If you haven’t heard of Clubhouse before, no worries. At the moment, its users are kept to something of a tight-knit circle. You can only join Clubhouse if you get invited by an existing user.
On the App Store, Clubhouse describes itself as “a space for casual, drop-in audio conversations—with friends and other interesting people around the world.”
You could think of it as another Skype or Zoom, but there is no video capture. Only audio and profile pictures and the “conversations” are more akin to listening to someone standing on a pedestal to give a presentation or a speech. You choose who you want to listen in on.
Facebook’s History of Copying Competing Apps
Zuckerberg seems to know that a social platform will be successful upon seeing it. Facebook bought Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus back when they were start-up companies. He made an attempt to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013, but the team behind it declined.
And maybe that’s exactly it—Facebook has a history of borrowing ideas from competing apps because Zuckerberg is always on the hunt for something new to bring to Facebook.
In what’s perhaps the most famous example, Facebook started the trend of “stealing” from Snapchat when it added its own version of social media stories in 2017.
More recently, Facebook launched Neighborhoods last October, which functions very similarly to hyperlocal social networking service Nextdoor. In December, Facebook released Collab for iOS devices, a late jump on the TikTok clone bandwagon.
What Is Facebook Aiming to Become?
Facebook began as an online space to speak and keep up with your friends. It has since grown into a platform with many different functions that appeal to many different kinds of people.
Facebook’s decision to get in on the somewhat niche market that Clubhouse has found is an interesting one. Whether it’s also a smart decision is something we’ll have to wait and see to find out.