Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the company’s plan to enter the social audio space. “We believe audio will be a great medium as well,” Zuckerberg told reporter Casey Newton in a conversation broadcast on Discord. “Every now and then a new medium comes along that can be adopted in many different areas,” Zuckerberg said. “I think that’s going to be true with these live audio rooms.”
For the 600 people listening, the irony was heavy. Live audio is not exactly “new medium”. The very platform Newton interviewed the Facebook CEO on offered live audio for five years and reportedly 10 billion dollars. Clubhouse, now one year old, was recently rated at $ 4 billion. The rapid rise of this startup has been duly noted by more established platforms, which have launched or announced their own live audio features in recent months: Twitter Audio Spaces, Reddit Talk, even LinkedIn is working on one.
Facebook’s take on the idea is hardly fresh, but the lack of originality has never stopped the company before. Soon it will launch its competitor Clubhouse, called Live Audio Rooms, where people can chat in real time. The company is initially testing the feature in Facebook groups and with public figures, but said in a blog post Monday that he expects the rooms “to be accessible to all on the Facebook application by the summer”. It also plans to roll out live audio rooms for its Messenger app this summer.
Facebook features a few other audio products as well: one is Soundbites, which Zuckerberg described as “nibble” audio content – a place for jokes, poems, concise ideas or anecdotes, which enter an algorithmic flow. (Twitter introduced a similar feature Last year; unsurprisingly, “tweeting with your voice” hasn’t taken off yet.) Another is Boombox, a collaboration with Spotify to share music. Facebook will also add a space to play and discover podcasts directly from its main application.
The social audio category is already very crowded, but Facebook comes up with some competitive advantages. Facebook already has over 2 billion users, providing an integrated listener base. The company’s immense advertising activity means that it has plenty of financial and human resources to devote to this latest initiative, should its executives so desire. Clubhouse, meanwhile, doesn’t even have an Android app yet. And yet, Facebook’s size alone does not guarantee that it will win. Conquest by copying has long been part of Facebook’s playbook, and strategy can sometimes pay off. When Facebook’s Instagram stole the Stories format from Snapchat, users loved it; the reception of Reels, its TikTok scam, has been more mixed.