The Clubhouse seems to be the new darling of the social networking world, which means that anyone and everyone is trying to copy it if they can’t buy it. Facebook, or at least its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has already been reported to have expressed an intention to develop something to rival the Clubhouse and set its New Product Experimentation (NPE) team to work on some options. One of the ones that came out of carpentry is the Hotline and, interestingly, it may actually be able to stand on its own and not be labeled as a direct clone of the Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse’s popularity comes from its almost anonymous audio-only format, making it easier to do something like city halls or announcements and get participants to respond with questions or reactions, depending on the format or settings. It is also known for its ease of use and, most importantly, for its privacy, as sessions are not recorded by default and those that are recorded are clearly marked.
The Facebook Hotline experiment, on the other hand, has only one of these elements. It mainly revolves around audio, but hosts, who may or may not be the main speaker, have the option of turning on their cameras to show a live video stream in their circular profile. Participants can ask questions that, at least for now, they must type in and, if the question is chosen, the host can pull them onto the stage for individual public interaction.
Unlike the more fluid atmosphere of the Clubhouse, the Hotline was designed more as a question and answer platform, which is not surprising considering its heritage. In order to be more informative than informal, it is also not surprising that the sessions are recorded by default and the creators receive recordings in MP3 and MP4 after the event.
Overall, the Hotline looks like something that has a role to play in an increasingly virtual world. More than competing with the Clubhouse, it looks more like a competitor to Zoom or Google Meet, since they are also used for question and answer purposes. Of course, Facebook still has other Clubhouse experiments and it remains to be seen which ones will actually become a real product.