Facebook has been rumored to be at work on its own audio chatroom platform to ape the Clubhouse success story. Well, the social media juggernaut has finally taken its first crack at the live audio game and is calling it Hotline. Developed by the company’s NPE experimental product division, the web-based application will be free for all to join – unlike the invite-only format of Clubhouse – and it has already entered the public beta testing phase.
Hotline takes some cues from cues from Clubhouse and Spaces, but adds a video element to it. The latest Facebook offering, which TechCrunch describes as ‘mashup of Instagram Live and Clubhouse’ – will let the host switch to a video of themselves instead of being limited to audio interaction only. Interestingly, Hotline will let users sign in via Twitter, but SMS verification is required as well.
Talking about the interface, there will be a section for listeners that are identifiable by their profile icons. Notably, Hotline also has a dedicated section where a list of text-based questions asked by listeners will appear, complete with the ability to upvote or downvote a question. And if the host wants, they can proceed to have a chat with the listener who asked a question that seems interesting and worth talking about.
So essentially, it’s a turn-based Q&A approach where the listener gets an opportunity to pitch a question via text, and then get a chance to discuss it with the host over audio. The rest of the listeners, meanwhile, can show their love for the ongoing session with reaction emojis, just like they would do on Twitter’s Spaces. Also, there will be no limit on the number of participants that can tune in to a Hotline session.
Hosts will be able to remove questions as they deem fit and also have the power to remove certain people from the interaction. A neat feature is that the host of a Hotline session will get audio as well as a video recording of the session as soon as it ends, which can later be shared on other platforms as well. During the initial phase though, Facebook employees will be monitoring these audio chat sessions and will have the power to remove folks who create a ruckus and violate the guidelines.
“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying by TechCrunch. It is apparent that Facebook doesn’t expect Hotline to be a smash hit and becoming its headlining product that leverages audio as a platform, but the learnings will definitely come in handy when Facebook goes all in.
Facebook is already experimenting with a live audio feature that builds on Rooms. As per leaked screenshots, it will let users broadcast an audio chat session that will be open to all users who come across it. There will also be another option that will allow users to host a more private audio chat session with just their friends.