Clubhouse just went from being an audio-only platform to offering text messages, and we detest it
Clubhouse launched as a audio-only social media platform but has now added a new messaging feature. We really wish it had not.
We have enough messaging platforms, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, you name it. We also have social media platforms that offer messaging options, like Instagram and Twitter. But clearly, that's not enough. When Clubhouse launched as an audio-only, exclusive platform for iOS users (initially), other platforms were left scrambling to play catch up, everyone wanted to bring in an audio-only feature. Twitter started offering Spaces, Spotify has Greenroom, and Facebook has also introduced its audio rooms. However, Clubhouse seems to be headed in the other direction. The platform recently announced a new text messaging feature on the app called Backchannel. Why though?
Clubhouse's Backchannel exists side by side the audio-only feature that actually made Clubhouse popular. Besides one-on-one chats, Backchannel can also be used in groups. There is an optional second inbox that stores your message requests. This messaging option was in the works for a bit it seems, with Clubhouse accidentally leaking it last month, as The Verge reports. Now when you open Clubhouse you will be able to see a little icon that looks like a paper plane on the right-hand corner at the bottom, this is Backchannel.
My hat? Tipped— Clubhouse (@Clubhouse) July 14, 2021
My mic? Flashed
My messaging? Direct.
After we unintentionally leaked their feature 5 times, here's our beloved engineering team introducing the new Clubhouse Backchannel 🥰 pic.twitter.com/3bPHeGxQaZ
How to use Backchannel on Clubhouse
Backchannel works a little like the way Instagram DMs work. If you follow each other, you can message the person and this will turn up in your ‘Chats'. If someone you do not follow messages you, this will turn up under ‘Requests' and you have the option to accept or reject it.
When you click on the Backchannel icon, you can manually search for the person you want to message, you can also go over to their Clubhouse profile and click on the Backchannel icon on the bio and send them a text. The Backchannel icon on the bio will only be visible to you if the user has turned on messages for everyone or if they follow you.
You can also access Backchannel while you are in a room during a live session. You need to click on person's profile photo and then on the Backchannel icon, if it is visible to you.
All of this is pretty simple and straightforward but it takes us back to all the strange, random messages we often get on Instagram/Twitter from people we do not know and do not follow on the platform. The same is expected to happen on Clubhouse, but of course, like it is on Instagram, you can always ignore the requests. We can also vaguely understand how an option like this could make Clubhouse ‘better', as the platform states. According to Clubhouse, a feature like Backchannel can help moderators discuss what they want to talk about, how they want a room to be, etc before they go live. Moderators can also take questions via Backchannel while the room is live instead of having to pull listeners in as speakers and then let them ask questions/make a point - saves time, in a way. Questions submitted via Backchannel can be filtered through by moderators before deciding who they want to allow as a speaker.
Admittedly, there are some uses one can see for Backchannel, but on the other side, a barrage of unnecessary message requests hover. Sure, you can always turn the option off and allow only those who you follow to message you. But then moderators will have to keep turning this option on and off depending on when they are hosting a room and when they are not. Of course, you can use Backchannel to send messages to your friends, but you already have WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Twitter DMs, Instagram, Facebook Messenger…, do you really need another one for just this purpose?
Also, for now, you cannot send media messages on Backchannel like videos and images, but a Clubhouse spokesperson has told The Verge that this feature is going to be introduced later along with some more features. And the delete message option is not there yet on Backchannel, this too is expected to be brought in soon.
With a feature like Backchannel, Clubhouse is essentially regressing and straying away from the main concept that made it super popular in the first place. With the uses Clubhouse has envisioned for Backchannel, particularly for the moderators on the platform, we can see a case there, perhaps. But a messaging feature means more unwanted clutter, which is expected to get worse when it starts supporting media messages. We didn't come to Clubhouse for this.