The Seeds Are Sown

Wed, Feb 3, 2021 2-minute read

I got my Clubhouse invite today. I haven’t used the app yet, but from what I hear, it’s awesome. It’s addictive (in a good way), it lets you meet interesting people, learn new things and participate in meaningful discussions. It also lets you talk to people with whom you would probably never get to talk in real life (celebrities, public figures, but also people outside of your “normal” circles).

I also know that Clubhouse is a venture-funded startup, and, you know, investors usually want their money back - with profit. This means that sooner or later, Clubhouse will have to monetize, and the only realistic way for a consumer app is ads. And with ads, it’s hard to resist the temptation to use as much of the users’ personal information as possible to target the ads better.

How is this going to unfold? Is there going to be speech recognition to serve you relevant audio ads? Or human reviewers listening to recordings of your conversations, like was the case with Amazon Alexa? Will Clubhouse creators resist the inevitable offer from Facebook, or are they going to sell - and eventually require you to share your data with the Big F, like WhatsApp has done?

Then, I hear, there are the algorithms to recommend new rooms to you. Are those going to expose you to something new, or keep you locked in opinion/content bubbles like YouTube does? We are biologically geared to like our beliefs confirmed, so the latter approach will certainly lead to more time spent in the app. Which way will the app’s founders choose?

The truth is, I don’t know how this is going to unfold. So far, though, things seem to be following the familiar playbook. Here is this cute, adorable baby who everyone loves, bound to grow into a publicly traded monster for which the product, as usual, is you.

When are we going to learn?