Spotlight on Clubhouse: What Is It and How Do You Join?

Touted as the next big thing, Clubhouse is an audio-based iPhone app that enables users to listen in on other users’ live conversations. Although the concept may sound sinister, the app only lets users listen in on people who want to be heard, such as celebrities or professionals. With Bill Gates and Elon Musk recently popping up in Clubhouse rooms, the app is currently enjoying a great deal of media attention.

Clubhouse Audio

As TechCrunch explains, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Clubhouse is leading a wave of new social media apps prioritizing performance streaming. The app was the brainchild of former Google engineer Rohan Seth and entrepreneur Paul Davison. Launched in April 2020, Clubhouse expanded its base to 1,500 by May. However, on almost its first anniversary, Clubhouse has been downloaded close to 13 million times.

In the app, there are no pictures or videos, just a profile picture for each user. In addition to listening in on conversations, users are sometimes allowed to join chats. Although the developers do have an Android version in the works, Clubhouse is currently available only on iPhone. There are more Android users than iPhone users globally, but the developers plan to scale up slowly, indicating that in trying to do too much too soon, they run the risk of overloading the app’s servers.

How Do You Join Clubhouse?

Any iPhone user can download the app, provided they have received an invitation from another Clubhouse user. Every Clubhouse user can invite two new members, but they can earn the right to invite more people as they use the app. Anyone interested in Clubhouse could start by asking friends, seeking out a pay-it-forward invite chain, or even buying an invite on eBay.

Nevertheless, with Clubhouse attracting so much media attention, prospective users are vulnerable to scams. For example, a fake website presenting itself as Clubhouse for Android has already popped up, circulating a Trojan program that steals log-in details for more than 450 online services.

How Does Clubhouse Work?

With movement still curtailed by social-distancing policies in many countries worldwide, Clubhouse effectively has a captive audience. The platform provides virtual rooms for users to come together and discuss issues that resonate with them, whether it’s relationships, world affairs, technology, or pets.

Each room has a list of speakers, while the rest listen, as well as a moderator controlling who takes the floor and when. If a listener wishes to speak or ask a question, they virtually raise their hand. Clubhouse’s vast population of celebrity members include Ashton Kutcher, Jared Leto, Drake, and Oprah.

In its review, Glamour UK magazine describes the invite-only, audio-only social media platform as a mashup of Spotify, Zoom, and singing-competition show The X Factor. The magazine likens signing up to gaining entry to a VIP nightclub, enabling the lucky few (or rather, 3 million) “highly exclusive” members to enjoy thought-provoking conversations, talent shows, and ad hoc celebrity appearances from the comfort and safety of their own home—something of a priority right now. Straight out of Silicon Valley, Clubhouse enables users to eavesdrop on conversations that have already started or start a new one of their own.

Trialed in China for just a brief stint, Clubhouse is already banned there. According to reports from Bloomberg, the ban came after Chinese users started discussing sensitive topics such as China-Taiwan relations and the genocide of Uighur Muslims by the Chinese government.

Outside of China, Clubhouse is surging in popularity. As Glamour UK explains, it is like listening to a live podcast, but with the bonus of being able to contribute to the conversation, ask a question, or show off your singing skills. The app was used in tryouts for a forthcoming US tour of Dreamgirls. Glee star Amber Riley and Broadway actor Leroy Church judged auditions, while an audience of hundreds of thousands of users listened in.

Clubhouse is presented as a safe place for celebrities to answer questions from ordinary people, as well as a platform for showcasing talent, sharing stories, and presenting lectures. Conversations are live and cannot be recorded using the app, although there is always the possibility of participants being quoted on other social media platforms.

Within less than a year of the app going live, Clubhouse was valued at circa $100 million. Its founders indicate that there is much more room as they expand access, eventually making it available to all without an invite, including Android users. Elon Musk’s appearance on Clubhouse undoubtedly raised the fledgling social media app’s profile exponentially. However, the surge in demand left many would-be listeners out in the cold, forcing them onto pirate YouTube streams.

Off the Beaten Path: 3 Exciting Travel Destinations in Asia

From safaris and ancient sites to sprawling cities and vibrant nightlife, Asia offers something for every traveler, no matter what they may seek. With a relatively low cost of living in many countries, Asia has established an international reputation not just for its fascinating sites and endless natural beauty, but also its affordability. For those seeking something a little more exciting than a conventional vacation, we explore three unique Asian adventures.

1. Tagong, China

Located in China’s Sichuan Province, this tiny traditional Tibetan town enables visitors to experience a flavor of Tibetan culture without leaving the Chinese mainland. Although situated in China, Tagong’s friendly, welcoming inhabitants do not consider themselves Chinese or even accept that they live there, telling new arrivals, “Welcome to Tibet.”

With its monasteries and temples, travelers seeking a taste of the Tibetan way of life will not be disappointed with Tagong. Cycling, hiking, horseback riding, and even nomad homestays are all available.

Meanwhile, the Tagong Horse Festival, staged every summer on the hillside stretching in front of the town, draws visitors from all over. The valley echoes with the sound of thundering hooves and spectators’ cheers while daring horse-back riders perform deft acrobatics, including bending backward off their horses to pluck colorful scarves from the ground, snatching themselves up again just in time to steer away from the crowd.

Plus, each Tagong family sets up a tent at the event and prepares a variety of traditional fare, including yak cheese and meat, momos (dumplings), and fresh fruit, accompanied by assorted beverages such as tea and beer.

This Tibetan equivalent of the Superbowl is run by locals for locals. The Tagong Horse Festival is a celebration of ancient Tibetan culture, a nomadic way of life that relies heavily on horsepower.

2. Kamikochi, Japan

Surrounded by imposing mountains and found 1,500 meters above sea level, the valley of Kamikochi is famed throughout Japan for its beauty. The region was shaped by glacial activity over many thousands of years. Today, Kamikochi hosts a variety of events throughout the summer months, including the annual boat festival, where locals stage a parade of boat-shaped floats to celebrate the Azumi people, a seafaring tribe of people who fished.

Kamikochi is accessible only by bus. The valley effectively closes down for six months each year as vast snowfalls shut local roads from mid-November to mid-April. During the summertime, however, Kamikochi draws visitors from near and far.

The Kappa Bridge, located in the center of Kamikochi, is popular among travelers. This feat of engineering traverses the Azusa River and boasts impressive views of Mount Myojindake and the Hotaka Peaks, making it a popular spot for taking photos.

The Kappa Bridge also offers excellent views of Mount Yakedake, an extremely active volcano with a smoking crater. Following a local trail, visitors can try the strenuous hike to the 2,455-meter-high summit.

Taisho Pond, created when Mount Yakedake erupted in 1915, is speckled with stark tree skeletons, serving as a haunting reminder of the volcano’s ferocity. Encircled by lush green woodland and with Mount Yakedake reflected in its glassy surface, Taisho Pond is an area of immense natural beauty in the summertime.

3. Kirirom National Park, Cambodia            

Situated in the Phnom Sruoch District of Kampong Speu Province, Kirirom National Park covers more than 35,000 hectares (approx. 135 square miles) of the Elephant Mountains.

Meaning “Mountain of Joy,” Kirirom was named by a Cambodian king. Located several hundred meters above sea level, the park is on a plateau that comprises an unusually high elevation pine forest that forms the headwaters of several streams, providing the town of Kampong Speu with life-giving water.

Part of the Southwest Cluster Protected Areas, Kirirom National Park is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls as well as being home to an impressive array of endangered species. Taking a traditional ox-ride, visitors can see a variety of exciting wildlife, including sun bears, pileated gibbons, and elephants, with the occasional tiger.

Travelers are invited to take part in a variety of local activities, including foraging, orchid spotting, jungle trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and swimming. Those interested in conservation can even join local park rangers on anti-poaching expeditions.

Situated adjacent to Kirirom National Park, the Chambok ecotourism site hosts travelers from all over the world, providing them with an unforgettable taste of local life. Here, travelers can enjoy lunch beside a waterfall, sampling traditional Khmer dishes prepared by local cooks using locally sourced produce.

Once the royal retreat of King Sihanouk, Kirirom National Park borders the Cardamon Mountains, its foot trails winding through the elevated pine forest, leading to cascading waterfalls, hilltop shrines, and cliffs for breathtaking views. A playground for the nation’s elite before the civil war, despite many lavish villas being destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, Kirirom is currently undergoing something of a revival, with new villas popping up and attracting wealthy individuals from across the globe.