Facebook Live Audio Rooms: social media company launches Clubhouse rival in US

Tech company will also make select podcasts available through its platform in its latest updates

There can be up to 50 speakers in a Facebook Live Audio Room, and there’s no limit to the number of listeners. Courtesy Facebook
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Facebook has launched its own Clubhouse-style live audio rooms and a way to play podcasts on its platform, marking a push into social audio by the world's largest social network.

Facebook's roll-out of a potential Clubhouse rival in the US on Monday follows the early success of the invite-only live audio app, which became a hit as people stayed at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was one of the Silicon Valley celebrities who have made appearances on the app, which recently expanded to Android users.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the F8 Developers Conference in San Jose, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Zuckerberg said that he learned, while testifying in front of Congress last month, that he didn't have clear enough answers to questions about data and Facebook should offer users this kind of option to control their information. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Facebook, which has said it wants to make audio a "first-class medium" on its platforms, joins Twitter and messaging platform Discord, which have already launched their own live-audio offerings.

Spotify released its own version, Greenroom, last Wednesday. Slack, Microsoft Corp-owned LinkedIn and Reddit are also working on similar products.

Public figures and certain Facebook groups in the US using iOS will be able to create live audio rooms, with up to 50 speakers and unlimited listeners. These users can also invite people without a "verified badge" to speak, Facebook said in a blog post.

Users on iOS and Android can listen to the rooms, but Facebook has not yet revealed when the feature might be introduced to further markets.

The company, which has been vocal about its push to attract content creators, said it is partnering with public figures including musicians, journalists and athletes in the live audio rooms roll-out.

Listeners will be able to send Facebook's virtual currency "stars" to creators in live audio rooms.

Mr Zuckerberg has said the company will not take a cut of creator revenue until 2023.

A number of select podcasts will also be available on Facebook to US listeners and the company said it would soon add to this initial slate.

Facebook, which has been criticised for its handling of problematic content across its products, will face the challenges of moderating live and recorded audio content, including in private Facebook groups.

Facebook is also working on a project with Spotify to share and listen to music on the platform.