Clubhouse – an audio-only chat app for iOS has been the talk of the town lately. Now, it has a competitor, which comes with big backing. Facebook has launched an experimental competitor to Clubhouse named “Hotline.” The new app from Facebook looks to leverage from the increasingly popular social media format that has become a thing since Clubhouse. A report in TechCrunch says that Hotline has been developed by Facebook’s New Product Experiment (NPE) division, which regularly pushes out apps with new (or copied) ideas. While the base idea is inspired from Clubhouse, the new Facebook app comes with its own distinct features as well. Unlike Clubhouse, which is an audio-only platform, Hotline supports videos as well, with the option of toggling the same with the participant. This feature, however, is not live on Hotline yet. However, video still plays a secondary role to audio, as streams appear in small circles the size of a profile image.
According to the TechCrunch report, real estate investor Nick Huber was the first person to publicly try out Hotline with a livestream at 10:30PM IST on Wednesday, April 8. Facebook told the website the Huber represents the kind of creators Facebook wants to work with for Hotline – someone who helps people expand their professional skills or finances. Hotline is led by Eric Hazzard, who joined Facebook when it acquired his Q&A app tbh. Hotline’s interface will look familiar to anyone who has used Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, or any other audio-centric social networks in the past. At the top on the mobile app (left side on desktop), there is a speaker section where the event host is featured in a round profile icon or live video stream. Below (or to the side of the desktop) are the event’s listeners.
Hotline asks users to sign in with Twitter, and then verifies them via SMS. The listener’s section is divided up between those who are just watching the event, as represented by their profile icons, and those who are asking questions. At the top of this section, there is a list of questions that users have asked, which others can either upvote or downvote. The creators can look to this section to find out which question to answer next and can pull listeners on the stage area for a conversation.
At present, users can type in their questions, then join the host on stage when it’s their turn. Currently, guests are represented by their profile icon and are audio only when on stage. There is, however, an option in settings to toggle video on – this was not functional for the early test initiated by Facebook. Users can react to conversations with Emoji including clapping hands, fire, heart, laughter, surprise, and thumbs up.
In Hotline, hosts will have full control over the experience, and can remove inappropriate questions from the queue or remove people from their Hotline session. For the initial tests, Facebook employees will moderate events and remove anyone that violates Facebook’s Community Standards, Terms of Service, Data Policy, or the NPE Team’s Supplemental Terms.
Another notable difference between Clubhouse and Hotline is that Hotline events can be recorded. After the event, Hotline hosts revceive two recordings of their sessions – one in MP3 format and one in MP4. The creator can upload these to other networks like YouTube or Facebook, or edit them into short-form content for apps like TikTok or turn the audio recording into a podcast. There is no limit to the size of the audience that can join in on a session.