The future of social media could be audio


“I do not intend to reopen the application”, Lorenz Told Wired. “I don’t want to take over a network that doesn’t take user security seriously.” His experience was not exceptional and since then darker, racist elements have appeared, suggesting that behavior that ruins all other social platforms also exists under Clubhouse exclusive, cool varnish.

The Discord gaming chat app, meanwhile, has exploded during the pandemic. The service uses VoIP software to translate spoken chat into text (an idea that came from video gamers who found typing while playing also impossible). In June, to take advantage of people’s need to connect during the pandemic, Discord announced a new tagline:“Your place to talk” – and efforts to make the service less player-centric. The marketing push seems to have worked: in October, according to Discord 6.7 million users – up from 1.4 million in February, just before the pandemic hit.

But while Discord communities, or “servers,” can be as small and innocent as children organize pajama parties at a distance but simultaneously they also included far-right extremists who have used the service to organize the Charlottesville white supremacist rallies and the recent insurgency on the United States Capitol.

In Discord and Clubhouse, the culture of the group – of nerdy players in the case of Discord, overconfident venture capitalists for Clubhouse – has led to examples of group thinking that can be off-putting at best and bigoted at worst. . Yet there is always an appeal to both: How cool is it to literally speak and be heard? After all, this is the fundamental promise of social media: the democratization of the voice.

Speak and you will be heard

Voice privacy makes audio social media even more engaging in an age of pandemic social distancing and isolation. Jimi Tele, CEO of Chekmate, a “textless” dating app that connects users only through voice and video, says the privacy of voice inspired him to launch the app that would be “at home”. catfish test ”, referring to people deceiving others online with fake profiles.

“We wanted to break away from the anonymity and gamification that texting allows and instead create a community rooted in authenticity where users are encouraged to be themselves without judgment,” says Tele. App users start voice memos an average of five seconds, then gradually lengthen. And while Chekmate has a video option, Tele claims that the app’s several thousand users overwhelmingly prefer to use their voice. “They are seen as less intimidating [than video messages],” he says.

This immediacy and authenticity are the reason why Gilles Poupardin created Cappuccino. He wondered why there wasn’t already a product that bundled voice memos into one downloadable file. “Everyone has a group chat with friends,” he says. “What if you could hear your friends?” It’s really powerful. “

Mohan agrees. She says her group of friends switched to Cappuccino from a Facebook Messenger discussion group, then tried Zoom calls early in the pandemic. But the discussions would inevitably turn into a reel of big event highlights. “There was no time for details,” she laments. The daily “beans” of Cappuccino, as the stitched together recordings are called, allows Mohan’s circle of friends to keep up to date in a very intimate way – “My friend is moving to a new apartment in a new town, and she was just talking about how she fetched coffee in her kitchen, ”Mohan says. “It’s something I would never know on a Zoom call because it’s so small.”

Even old social media companies are taking action. In summer 2020 Twitter launched voice tweets, 140 seconds of audio, which he nicknamed Spaces.

“We wanted to know if audio could add an extra layer of connection to the public conversation,” says Rémy Bourgoin, senior software engineer on Twitter and the Spaces team.



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