The Jolly Teapotby Nicolas Magand
15 February 2021

What is the biggest threat to Clubhouse: Twitter, Facebook, or Clubhouse itself?

Another excellent piece by Ben Thompson on Stratechery, this one describing where exactly Clubhouse fits in the social media landscape, and why it may succeed. The whole piece is very smart and insightful and I highly recommend reading it. This part on Facebook got my attention:

Still, the discussion of all of these different networks really does highlight how Facebook is unique: while Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are all first and foremost about the medium, and only then the network, Facebook is about the network first. That is how the service has evolved from text to images to video and, I wouldn’t be surprised, to audio. This also explains why Facebook managed the shift to mobile so well; for these other networks, meanwhile, it was mobile that was the foundation for their transformative breakthroughs.

That is why I would actually give Facebook’s upcoming Clubhouse competitor a better chance than Twitter’s already-launched offering. Facebook takes innovations developed in different apps for interest-based networks and adds them to its relationship-based network; at the same time, this also means that Facebook is never going to be a real competitor for Clubhouse, which seems more likely to recreate Twitter’s interest-based network than Twitter is likely to recreate the vibrancy of Clubhouse.

Another reason as to why Facebook’s upcoming Clubhouse competitor will probably have more success than Twitter’s: Twitter. When was the last time Twitter introduced something really useful, well done, and really interesting? Years at least.1 We will see how they will try not to ruin their Revue acquisition, but I don’t see Twitter compete against anyone when it comes to new products, hence why Facebook probably has a better chance.2

Also, if Clubhouse aims at recreating Twitter’s interest-based network, why on Earth would they use a user’s phone contact list first to build a user’s network?

As for Clubhouse, I think they need to work fast on what is expected of an app in 2021: Privacy, security, transparency, avoiding weird connections to China, moderation, and some easy way for users to delete their account and data, which is currently not the case. On this lack of option for deleting one’s account, Joe Macleod tweeted:

The more I think of this, the more shocking I find it. It is something that is driving me to talk about / designing ends. Off-boarding should be part of the design.

Exactly. I had to send an email and ask for my data to be deleted. An email!

Describing Clubhouse, Thompson adds:

[Clubhouse actions fit] the stereotype of a new social network scrambling to capture the market first, and worrying about potential downsides later.

Clubhouse would have been fine with this strategy in 2013. In 2021, I’m not sure they’re doing enough to succeed, and acting like they do, I don’t think they deserve to succeed.

Maybe facing competition from serious names like Twitter, Facebook, and whichever company that will steal the idea will help them do better. At this point, the bar for doing better sadly isn’t very high.


  1. I want to say Polls, but maybe there is something more recent than that.↩︎

  2. I hope Alex Kantrowitz is right though.↩︎

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