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Live Audio Rooms from Facebook

The app allows users to host live discussions, and has opportunities for users to listen and speak, and allows users to communicate in voice chat rooms

In April, Facebook announced it is releasing an array of new products, one of these is a direct competitor to the audio based social media app, Clubhouse. The app allows users to host live discussions, and has opportunities for users to listen and speak, and allows users to communicate in voice chat rooms. It is an invite-only app whilst they straighten out their flaws and ensure it is fully refined. Facebook’s new audio based application is called Live Audio Rooms and is being released this week for a test run in the US, public figures and certain groups will be able to host live audio rooms through the Facebook app, anyone can be a speaker and it will allow up to 50 people to speak at the same time.

Any number of listeners are allowed in at one time, whereas with Clubhouse they currently have limitations for the number of people able to listen in on the live discussions. Clubhouse first launched around 15 months ago and have encouraged more mainstream social media apps to make their own similar feature. Spotify announced its Greenroom app, Discord has Stage Channels and Reddit has Reddit Talk, and Twitter has its add-on app, Spaces. These are all new competitors to the game and proves live audio feeds are quite a trend right now.

Along with Live Audio Rooms, Facebook is also launching podcasts to be available to listen to through a miniplayer whilst on the app, or through a full-size player with different playback controls. Also allowing users to listen to the podcast whilst the screen is off. Podcasts will show up in newsfeeds where users can comment, bookmark and react the same as videos, pictures and statuses. With the Live Audio Rooms users will receive notifications when followers or friend joins a room, and auto-captioning which isn’t available on the Clubhouse app, but Twitter Spaces has already integrated this. Users will be able to request to join a conversation, by using a “raise a hand” button, which sounds very polite and British to me.

Groups will have the ability to choose admin for who can create a room, and they will also be able to assign moderators and moderators, much like the group pages on Facebook already. You will also be able to allow access to only member in a group for private chats, and public group chats will be accessible by anyone in or out of the group. This is pretty much standard for things like Facebook Lives, where people can have moderators and admin to filter out any nastiness.

“The high-level picture here is that we think that audio is, of course, also going to be a first-class medium, and that there are all these different products to build across this whole spectrum,” Mark Zuckerberg has said.

One of the features available on the new Facebook audio app, is a new Audio Creator Fund, which will to support emerging audio creators. By doing this it allows users to create short snippets of songs or podcasts or even of the live audio feeds and share them onto their platforms, basically a TikTok for audio. These clips will be called “Soundbites” and will be able to be recorded and edited in an in-app tool. One thing that caused controversy with the Clubhouse app is that the guidelines of the app prohibit any conversations from being recorded, shared without permission or transcribed, when there have already been many instances of racism, bullying and harassment on the app.

There are numerous privacy issues with Clubhouse and has been banned or blocked by countries such as Jordan, Iran and China. Also, Clubhouse has made it slightly more difficult for people to earn or fundraise on their app, users are able to do so but it must be through a third-party link. With the Facebook audio rooms, hosts can set up a fundraiser or a non-profit so listeners can donate directly with a button on the chat. Facebook Live Audio Rooms will also have a “Stars” option, where listeners can tip their favourite audio broadcasters.

Although audio-based apps don’t seem like much, and people are probably wondering “why not just use facebook live with the video off” but the truth is, when someone is just chatting away without having a camera in there face it often makes for a more “real-feel”, and allows people to have the ability to have longer and overall more casual conversations, without viewers feeling the need to be looking at the screen the whole time. People love podcasts and radio, why not make an interactive version for those who enjoy talking, and those who enjoy listening, and for those who are on Facebook all the time anyway.

Lastly, a partnership between Facebook and Spotify is on the books as well, bringing the music player over the Facebook News Feed and allow people to stream and listen as they please. Music is an all-rounder and being able to share podcasts and the like it will create a much more group-like connection with users on Facebook, and it means they won’t have to go onto a separate app to listen.

“Our ambition has always been to make Spotify ubiquitous across platforms and devices — bringing music and podcasts to more people — and our new integration with Facebook is another step in these efforts,” a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to a continued partnership with Facebook, fuelling audio discovery around the world.”

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