Facebook bets big on audio: new apps on the way

Facebook is starting to lay its cards on the table: there's more than just Clubhouse in its sights, the company is about to launch four new products dedicated exclusively to audio.

The announcement had been in the air for weeks, but the reality is much more substantial than journalists, industry experts and ordinary Facebook fans might have expected: Mark Zuckerberg's group is about to launch an entire suite of products dedicated exclusively to audio. There is not only Clubhouse in the crosshairs, because Facebook is also thinking about podcasts (which seem to have finally taken off, as Apple is about to launch Podcasts+).

Asking questions from journalist Casey Newton of Platformer Zuckerberg told the very first details of the new apps and new services that will be integrated into existing apps. There are four in total: an audio-only version of Rooms, an app similar to Clubhouse, a product called Soundbites that will allow Facebook users to quickly post short voice messages on their profiles and a podcast service that will be connected to Spotify. Fidji Simo, the woman in charge of developing Facebook's main app, clearly explained why the company chose to focus on audio: "We noticed a massive growth in the use of audio messages during the pandemic".

Facebook doesn't copy anyone

It has always been said of Facebook that when a new idea pops up, Zuckerberg's company either copies it or buys the company that developed it. Facebook, in the U.S., is also facing legal troubles and an Antitrust investigation for alleged plagiarism.

Simo, however, denies that Facebook wants to copy Clubhouse or other apps dedicated to audio: Facebook is just trying to create its own interpretation of these products, which will have differences from those already on the market.

How will be the new Facebook audio services

Soundbites will be the new Facebook product dedicated to short audio messages. Zuckerberg said this product is like an audio version of Reels, which in turn is Facebook's version of TikTok. Users can share single clips in their news feeds or they can consume a series of audio clips joined together and distributed algorithmically in a feed.

With regard to podcasts Zuckerberg said that Facebook will create a tool that will allow podcast creators to share them with Facebook users, a kind of search engine dedicated to this audio format. He also hinted at the possibility for users to use an external app to listen to a podcast as background while using the main Facebook app.

As for live audio chats, i.e. Clubhouse's real rival (rumored to be called Hotline), Zuckerberg was instead quite vague but suggested that there will be new ways in which live audio can help creators on Facebook.