JEDDAH: The uncensored audio-conversations social app, Clubhouse, has witnessed the migration of thousands of Saudi users in the past weeks.
Not available for Android users yet, Clubhouse is currently the first most popular app in the Social Media Network category of the App Store in Saudi Arabia.
The app’s growing popularity is also expanding to other Arab countries.
“It is a really enjoyable, easy-to-use platform that gives all users the equal opportunity to mingle, talk, and join rooms,” user Fahad Mohammed told Arab News.
What is unique about Clubhouse is the real-time voice conversations that any user can listen to.
Moreover, it is an invite-only platform, meaning that users cannot simply download it from the App Store and create an account like any other social app. Instead, those who wish to join the network must receive an invite from an existing Clubhouse member.
However, Clubhouse announced earlier in January that their focus now is on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world.
Currently, each new member is allocated one invite. After a while, new users get three more. If someone receives an invite by an existing member, they can eventually pick up to four other people to join.
Due to its invite-only model, Clubhouse memberships are highly precious. Therefore, many users in Saudi Arabia are offering invites for sale on Twitter, with prices ranging between SR15 to SR200 ($4 to $53) per invite.
There are also those who are offering invites in exchange for a follow and retweet.
Many Saudis said they were becoming addicted to this innovative medium of communication. Mohammed said he had been away from interacting on social media for a long while; however, he finally found the platform that made him want to give virtual interactions another chance.
“Honestly, I have been spending hours on this app lately,” he said. “I believe Clubhouse will initiate a new phase in social media networks. It offers a comfortable environment for users and has a huge potential to grow fast and offer promising services.”
In Saudi Arabia, the chatrooms have brought together technology enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, bookworms, stock market investors, social media influencers, as well as officials.
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb and Minister of Communications Abdullah Al-Swaha also joined the network. Al-Khateeb participated in a chatroom on Saudi tourism on Sunday.
The app has also appealed to those who just want to have fun and meet new people, or even find their significant other.
At its beta version stage now, Clubhouse rules are loose. Although the app strongly discourages any discriminatory and aggressive behavior, it is up to the hosts or moderators of the room to control the conversation.
“It is a nice thing to be able to join chatrooms and share your opinions and ideas with people you appreciate,” user Sarah Al-Mulhim told Arab News. “Personally, I would only join serious discussions with people I already know in some way or another.”
She added, however, that she would not make an effort to engage in casual discussions with people she does not know anything about just to pass time. “It’s a total waste of energy,” she said.
Osama Adel agreed with Al-Mulhim. “I don’t like the fact that anyone can join and say anything they want. It is getting chaotic in some rooms, especially when there are a bunch of strangers who are trying hard to impress one another and show off. I only liked the rooms that I joined with friends.”
Clubhouse rooms organize people into three groups: A host, moderators and audience members. The setup looks like a virtual panel discussion at a conference.
The invite-only app is all anyone is talking about on social media these days, though it has been around since March 2020.
The app had only 1,500 users in May 2020 and was worth $100 million, according to CNBC.
The app started to circulate in the Kingdom among entrepreneurs and technology investors; then influencers and content makers joined, which helped it go viral.
It quickly became one of the top social media networks, with 6 million registered users and a value of $1 billion. Four million users registered between January and February this year, according to a Backlinko report.
The sudden increase in users came after Tesla founder and Silicon Valley giant Elon Musk engaged in a lengthy discussion with Robinhood trading platform CEO Vlad Tenev at a Clubhouse chat room, according to several US technology sites.
It is not the first time millions of social media users have followed Musk’s footsteps; he promoted the Signal app several weeks ago as an alternative to WhatsApp. Musk is the top followed user on Clubhouse, with over 240,000 followers.