Clubhouse launches direct messaging feature ‘Backchannel’ as user numbers rise

Clubhouse, the invite-only social audio app, announced Wednesday that it has launched a direct messaging feature called “Backchannel,” which allows users to interact one-on-one or in a group text format.

The official launch follows last month’s snafu when the company accidentally leaked the feature to a select group of users who updated the app on iOS and Android devices.

In just a year, Clubhouse has seen explosive growth and forced industry incumbents like Facebook, Twitter and Spotify to introduce similar audio products, or in some cases, make strategic acquisitions within the space.

The premise is relatively simple, since there’s no video, pictures or text-based chat rooms. Users will log into the app and be greeted with a few live, virtual rooms, where they can see a list of the people participating. If they click on the room, the audio switches on and they can hear the conversation.

Earlier this year, the number of monthly app installs worldwide had declined by millions — from a peak of over 9 million in February — and in April, installs came in at 900,000. The company reports more than 10 million weekly active users, and since launching on Android in early May, has added 8 million new users.

The new growth spurt was hinted at by Clubhouse CEO Paul Davison in an appearance on CNBC in May, when he said Clubhouse had seen one million Android users join shortly after launching for the Google mobile operating system, and added, “millions more people are on the waitlist.”

Davidson said at the time Clubhouse needed to carefully add new users to prevent a decline in app performance and user experience, which had happened during its first big wave of growth.

Clubhouse ranked No. 33 on this year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list.

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