Is Clubhouse, and audio social more broadly, a genuine, lasting interactive trend, or will the app simply fade out, like many other fad platforms before it?
It's impossible to know of course, at this early stage of the game. But the challenges are rising for the first breakthrough app of 2021, with Twitter looking to expand its audio Spaces tool, and latch onto the momentum of Clubhouse's initial push.
And this won't be good news for Clubhouse's prospects - today, Twitter announced that it's boosted the amount of users that can now access Spaces via Android.
in the last 48h we've added a lot of new android folks to our beta! welcome aboard, we look forward to????????your Spaces!— Spaces (@TwitterSpaces) March 25, 2021
Clubhouse doesn't yet have an Android app, and it recently noted that it's likely still a couple of months away from an Android launch. That could see Spaces gain audience interest, which could make it harder for Clubhouse to convince those users to switch across to its app instead, once it does become available.
Maintaining user interest is already set to be a big challenge for Clubhouse, with Twitter offering much broader audience reach. And with most of the platform's top broadcasters and hosts already having established, large Twitter followings, it makes sense that many of them will consider broadcasting on Twitter instead, in order to reach the largest possible audience with their efforts.
That then puts the onus on Clubhouse to provide more value in other ways, likely through clever algorithm matching, to highlight the best, most relevant broadcasts to each user, or banking on niche community interests to keep people coming back.
Either way, scale looks set to be a problem, with Clubhouse still in invite-only mode.
And already, that could be the cause of a slowdown in interest for the app.
As you can see in this chart from Sensor Tower, Clubhouse's download rankings have been on a steady decline over the past month, dropping from 37th on the US App Store charts, to 172nd today.
As noted by analyst Dare Obasanjo on Twitter, the same is reflected in a Google Trends search for 'Clubhouse'.
Those are some concerning trends - and as noted, with Clubhouse still yet to launch an Android app, its growth momentum could indeed be slowing fast, and with both Spaces and Facebook's audio rooms taking shape, it could become increasingly difficult for Clubhouse to reverse that shift.
Does that mean Clubhouse is done for?
Well, no. The app has succeeded in gaining huge interest, very quickly, and it's the favored platform of many well-known broadcasters and celebrities. Clubhouse could still succeed by maintaining and building on those relationships, and as noted, by improving its algorithms to keep users engaged.
That's how TikTok has succeeded, by building an algorithm which makes its video feed so enticing. But Clubhouse, thus far, hasn't shown the same algorithmic nous, and when you're dealing with live, in-the-moment audio, it's not really possible to ensure that the best, most relevant content is being served to each user, all of the time.
Which is why Clubhouse now faces some significant challenges, and could struggle to become a genuine social competitor.
Platform advocates will be ready to stand up for the app, and espouse its distinguishing qualities. But the truth, eventually, will lie in user interest. Which, right now, appears to already be on the decline.