Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company plans to launch several audio products, including Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way for users to find and play podcasts.
- Facebook will begin to test live audio rooms, which will launch by summer in the US
- Clubhouse is not yet available on Android
- It faces competition from multiple companies working on similar applications
Facebook’s incursion into the audio market comes as the sudden explosion of interest in Clubhouse, an audio app where billionaires and celebrities including Tesla CEO Elon Musk have popped in to chat, could be waning.
Downloads of the Clubhouse app, which is only available on Apple’s iOS devices, suffered an estimated 70 per cent decline in downloads in March from February when it hit a high of around 9.6 million installs.
Mr Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social media network planned to launch features including short-form audio clips called Soundbites and ways to create sound effects or improve audio quality.
It should be available for users in the upcoming months.
Facebook said in a blog post it would begin to test live audio rooms, which would launch by summer in the northern hemisphere.
Mr Zuckerberg said Facebook was looking to “treat audio as a first-class medium in the way that we would photos or video” in an interview on Discord with Casey Newton, editor of newsletter Platformer.
The rapid growth of the year-old app Clubhouse has demonstrated the potential of audio chat services.
What is not clear is if Clubhouse, which just closed a new round of Series C funding in which a source said it was valued at $US4 billion ($5.3 billion), will have staying power as installs decline.
The app, which is not yet available on Android, faces competition from multiple companies working on Clubhouse clones.
Twitter is testing its live audio feature Spaces, along with new features from Discord, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, Slack and Spotify Technology.
Reddit also unveiled a preview of its Reddit Talks product to moderators on Monday (local time).
Facebook, which has long been criticised for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content.
Facebook said its live audio rooms would be available on its Messenger product and in its main app.
It said it would test the rooms with public figures as well as in Groups — a product the company has vigorously promoted as providing places for people with common interests but which have also been used to spread misinformation and organise extremist activity.
As part of the announcements, Mr Zuckerberg also said Facebook is working with Spotify on Project Boombox to share and listen to music on its platform.
Facebook said users would be able to send donations, or tips, to creators in live audio rooms through Stars.
After launch, it will offer other types of monetisation like single-purchase access or subscription for rooms. It also announced an audio creator fund for Soundbites.
The company is working to attract more creators who are accustomed to receiving tips and other direct payments from fans.