Remember Clubhouse, that buzzy, audio-centric social app that everyone was clamoring to join when they needed an invite to do so, but then lost interest in as soon as the invite-only restriction was lifted?

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration on the drop-off interest, but there has been a pretty clear decline in mentions of the app in recent times.

But for those who are still keen on the app, Clubhouse has this week added a new functionality which leans into a different use case for the platform, in facilitating spontaneous social hang-outs and meet-ups among friends.

As you can see in this video overview, Clubhouse has added a new ‘Wave’ option, which enables you to signal to your connections when you’re active in the app, and open for a chat. If they’re interested, you can then start a smaller, private room – a broom closet, if that’s not stretching the metaphor too much – where just you and your friends can hang out, away from the more topic-focused discussions in the main rooms.

As explained by Clubhouse:

The number of rooms generated per day on Clubhouse is in excess of 700,000. It’s very uncommon for the smaller private moments among friends to put grins on faces: birthdays, long-overdue catch-ups, viewing a movie long-distance, arranging weekend plans, or simply hanging out on a Thursday night.”

As with live-streaming, audio social is also extending into more private conversations and hangouts with the Wave option, giving another another method to keep in contact with pals at any time – which may be ideal for our currently somewhat restricted engagements.

Houseparty, a live-stream hangout service for younger users, had a similar design and garnered considerable momentum a few years ago.

Houseparty screenshots

While the main focus of live-streaming, in general, was broadcasting yourself, Houseparty took a different approach, which quickly caught on, with the app racing to 20 million users shortly after launch, while it had more than 1.2 million daily actives after just 8 months on the market.

That caught the attention of Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, which purchased Houseparty in 2019, with a view to making it the complementary platform for Fortnite players who also wanted to hang out virtually – to see their teammates, as opposed to just hearing them.

That particular use case never caught on, and Epic recently announced that it will be shutting Houseparty down permanently in October. But for a time, Houseparty had tuned into a key trend for streaming that others had missed, in connecting smaller groups, as opposed to public broadcasting, and facilitating casual meet-ups with friends who were up for hanging out at any given time.

It makes sense for Clubhouse to investigate the similar use case, and you can see how the choice might be beneficial to the app, increasing the number of possible uses. Clubhouse was the app of the moment a few months back, but it will be unable to maintain its engagement momentum in the face of competitors looking to wrest the market away from it. As a result, it must find a key niche – or perhaps a few key niches – in order to solidify its position in the larger social sphere.

Although Clubhouse is still growing in popularity outside of the United States, where textual communication may be more difficult due to cultural differences and data limitations that prevent video from being used, spontaneous hangouts might be a part of that.

So while it’s not the shiny new thing, and Twitter Spaces looks set to become the main audio social platform of choice, Clubhouse does still have various opportunities to explore – and it also recently hired former Instagram entertainment partnerships manager Chelsea Macdonald to help it drive more connections with established and emerging stars and creators.

In addition to this, Clubhouse is also working on new audio ‘Clips’ tool, which would provide another way to share clips from Clubhouse chats, which could be another way to build buzz and get more listeners to download the app.

What are the chances that Clubhouse will become a genuine competitor to the major companies in the social media space?

Some may disagree, but I see Clubhouse’s potential as more similar to Reddit, with passionate, engaged groups interacting in the rooms and offering a more private conversation area than the larger social applications.

A more realistic route appears to be for Clubhouse to form relationships with relevant organizations and build on its potential as a more specialized and focused community space. This will not see the app reach billions of users, but will see it create more stable roots for continued use.