Twitter expands Spaces as competition with Clubhouse heats up

4 May 2021

Twitter Spaces. Image: Twitter

Twitter has opened its live audio feature to more users while Clubhouse has seen a dip in the number of people downloading its app.

The race to dominate live audio tech has just accelerated once again with Twitter greatly expanding its Spaces feature.

After months of testing, Twitter has opened up Spaces, its platform for hosting live audio discussions, to a much wider pool of users. Now anyone with more than 600 followers can host a Spaces talk.

The company added that it is experimenting with ticketed events in the “coming months”, allowing users to charge for access to their talks. This comes just weeks after Clubhouse launched its payments features where creators could get paid.

All of this fits in with Twitter’s strategy for diversifying its revenue model with subscriptions and other paid content.

The company’s latest move is a shot across the bow to Clubhouse – the live audio app that generated plenty of buzz in the first few months of the year, attracting several big names in tech like Elon Musk, but is now surrounded by competitors.

Most worryingly for Clubhouse is that the bloom may be off the rose. The app had just 922,000 downloads in April, according to Business Insider, compared with nearly 10m in February and 2.7m in March.

It marks a notable decline since the height of the app’s popularity. The dwindling download numbers may be partially explained by the invite-only nature of the app, which created an air of exclusivity, and the fact that it is only available on iOS. Its delay in getting an Android version out has been a source of frustration among potential users.

Yesterday (3 May) TechCrunch reported that Clubhouse has begun testing a “rough beta version” of its Android app with a small pool of users. This will be key in not just attracting more new users to the app but retaining old ones.

Clubhouse recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz and Tiger Global, that reportedly valued the company at $4bn, so it has a war chest of funds to build and roll out new features in an increasingly competitive space.

Perhaps its biggest test will be against Facebook, which expanded its remit on audio recently with Live Audio Rooms for Messenger and Facebook. It is expected to launch later in the summer.

Another rival has emerged in Reddit, which unveiled Reddit Talk two weeks ago – a live audio feature that borrows heavily from Clubhouse.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin