Clubhouse: Popular Audio-Only Social Media App Saw An Explosion of New Users From China

Audio-only social media app Clubhouse has seen an enormous rising number of downloads as Chinese users flock to the platform amidst the democracy crisis in the country. 

As the BBC reported from mobile app analytic firm Sensor Tower, the app was downloaded over 2,3 million times by the end of last month. Although it's a free, invite-only app, Chinese users are willing to pay up to $77 for invites from e-commerce websites. 

What makes Clubhouse special is its invite-only nature that creates some sort of exclusivity. The app lets users join and participate in public or private audio chatrooms. It doesn't record conversations to ensure privacy; hence many users opted for a mass exodus to the platform. 

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Democracy Issues

China is no stranger to severe internet censorship. Over the past few decades, the Chinese government has been subjected to controversies regarding press freedom in the country. 

Currently, Clubhouse is the only available social media app to use on iOS devices that doesn't require a virtual private network (VPN) third-party assistance. Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Netflix, Instagram, Twitter, and many other popular websites have been restricted in the mainland. 

State Council Order number 292 in 2000 set the first internet content providers restriction. Back in the time, Chinese-based websites, like SCMP, were not allowed to link overseas news portal without separate approval from the authority. Even worse, local non-licensed websites were only allowed to publish information that has already been published by other media. 

Whether it's the treatment of Uyghur minorities or the rising tensions amidst the Hong Kong protest, many users from China joined the platform to discuss things that "aren't supposed to be discussed" in the country. It's their only safe space for them to talk without any disruption from the government, at least for now. 

Lawyer Rayhan E. Asat shares her experience on the app where she met a fellow Uyghur who broke down in tears while detailing the government's treatment of the minorities.

"I wanted to embrace him & take away some of the pain. He's so eloquent, fluent in Chinese, & a great moderator. He's still afraid to use his name and show his picture," she tweets.  

Rising Numbers

Since its release last May 2020, Clubhouse has a total value market of $1 billion. The app's popularity soared thanks to the current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where people are forced to work and study from home. Silicon Valley profiles and investors were among the first adopters of the app since its invite-only nature helped them build a connection with their audience. 

Furthermore, the app is also seeing endorses in the last two weeks from several A-list technophiles, including Tesla and SpaceX mogul Elon Musk when he tweeted that he would be speaking live on the app. The app's shares skyrocketed by 117% on February 1. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, talk show star Oprah Winfrey, and celebrities like Jared Leto, Drake, and Tiffany Haddish have also turned to the app. 

Clubhouse is exclusively available on iOS devices

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