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Clubhouse’s biggest threat? Facebook launches Live Audio Rooms

Facebook has unleashed another threat to the future of Clubhouse.

The social media giant on Monday started rolling out Clubhouse-clone Live Audio Rooms, continuing the company tradition of ripping off competitors.

Like Clubhouse, Live Audio Rooms lets users listen to and join live conversations. Initially, only public figures and select Facebook Groups on iOS in the US will be able to create Live Audio Rooms, but users on both Android and iOS will be able to join them.

Hosts can invite up to 50 speakers to a conversation. The initial set of creators include Grammy-nominated electronic music artist TOKiMONSTA, American football quarterback Russell Wilson, and scholar-activist Rosa Clemente.

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Unlike Clubhouse, there’s no limit to the number of listeners. Both members and listeners can listen to the rooms in public groups, but only members can listen in private groups.

Users can find rooms via their News Feed and Facebook notifications. They can also set reminders that go off a room goes live, hit a “raise a hand” button when they want to speak, and get notifications when their friends or followers join the chat. Users can also enable live captions, a feature that’s still not offered by Clubhouse.


Credit: Facebook
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Instagram Live Rooms put a unique spin on Clubhouse rivalry

Clubhouse has become social media’s newest darling and, naturally, everyone’s out to copy and kill it. Those rivals actually have a lot of opportunities to do that, considering Clubhouse still has limited reach in terms of invites and platforms. That said, not everyone wants to copy it feature for feature and some are trying to put a different spin on the audio-only social platform. That includes Facebook-owned Instagram that just silently rolled out an audio-only option to its shiny new Live Rooms.

Instagram Live Rooms itself is a special version of Instagram Live. While the latter lets a host speak with one other Instagram user, Live Rooms can have three for a total of four live video feeds. In both cases, however, the audience remains a passive and voiceless group that can only interact through text typed in the chat.

Mashable reports that Instagram just pushed a simple new feature that turns Live into an audio-only affair. Hosts will have the option to turn off their video and partly recreate the Clubhouse experience. Ironically, they can also just mute their audio, which probably has more limited applications.

It isn’t exactly a Clubhouse clone, of course, because nothing changes for those tuning into the Live feed. Clubhouse and its new rivals allow the audience to participate in the discussion with their voice, at least depending on the host that controls the session. For now, Instagram is positioning it simply as a way to lessen the pressure on users to look their best just to connect with their friends or fans.

Facebook does have other endeavors designed to whittle away some of the market share from Clubhouse while it’s still young. Those include a recent announcement of “social audio” features coming to its main platforms as well as experimental apps and services like the Q&A-oriented Hotline.

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Telegram Voice Chats limits removed, making rooms like radio

Telegram updated Voice Chats to a full “2.0” this week by removing all participant number restrictions. Voice Chats are now allowed in Telegram channels, and this update adds a bunch of features to the connected pair of features. Admins for both public groups and channels can activate the ability to host voice chats for unlimited numbers of live listeners.

This update adds features like rich lists of participants in channels and recordable voice chats. Users can work with voice chat titles and use invite links for both speakers and listeners. If you are the admin of a public group or channel, you can create invite links “that open the voice chat right away” – and separate links can be made for listeners and for speakers.

Once you’re inside a chat, users will be able to raise their hand. The admin can then approve them to speak. The “raise hand” animation is a tiny person waving at the admin – neat!

Recording voice chats is simple, now, resulting in an audio file that’s immediately available in Saved Messages. When a voice chat is being recorded in Telegram BY Telegram, a red light appears next to the title of the voice chat.

The latest update to Telegram allows “public figures” to join voice chats as their channels, now, too – adding to the wide variety of ways and means with which public figures can use Telegram to connect with readers and listeners.

If you’re an Android user, your chat list now works with new gestures. If you swipe left on a chat list item, you can choose which chat list action occurs. This can include Pin, Archive, Read, Mute, Delete, or Change Folder.

The Resume Playback feature for videos and audio tracks was added to voice messages. Before now, it was only available for videos and audio tracks, now it’s here for voice messages as well.

This update should be live in the Google Play app store for Android and in the Apple App Store for iOS devices. You should be able to access the same features with your desktop Telegram app as well – go see and/or update before you tap!

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Disney MagicMobile lets you into parks, rides, and hotel rooms with your phone

Disney today revealed that it will soon offer smartphone NFC access points at its parks through new functionality it’s calling MagicMobile. Those who frequent Disney parks are likely already familiar with the MagicBand, which is a physical band visitors wear on their wrist that allows them to carry out a number of functions by simply waving the band in front of an access point. MagicMobile seems to work a lot like the MagicBand, only it drops the physical wristband in favor of a smartphone.

In fact, Disney directly compares the two in its announcement today, saying that MagicMobile is “a convenient and contactless way to access MagicBand features like theme park entry through the power of your iPhone, Apple Watch or other smart device.” MagicMobile users will first need to create a MagicMobile pass using the My Disney Experience app and then add it to their device’s digital wallet before it can be used in parks, but once that’s done, Disney says that most functionality can be access just by holding your phone up to an access point.

Disney doesn’t get too specific about what MagicMobile will be capable of, but knowing what MagicBand already does, we should be able to make some educated guesses. In addition to allowing park entry, MagicBand can also be used to unlock your hotel door within Disney Resorts, check in at FastPass+ entrances, save Disney PhotoPass images to your Disney account, and even charge food and other products you purchase in the park to your hotel room (assuming, again, that you’re staying at a Disney Resort when you visit).

So, it seems safe to assume that MagicMobile will be capable of all of those things as well, and Disney says that users will have their choice of using a physical MagicBand or a MagicMobile pass (or both at the same time) when they visit a park.

Disney doesn’t say when, precisely, MagicMobile will roll out, but it previously said that it was targeting a 2021 launch for the service. As the statement we quoted above suggests, Disney says that MagicMobile will roll out on Apple devices first, with no word on when the service might come to Android. We’ll let you know when Disney reveals more, so stay tuned.

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Instagram’s new Live Rooms lets you go live with three other people

Instagram today launched Live Rooms, a new feature that lets you go live with up to three other people.

Instagram users could previously only go live with one other person, but can now “double-up” on their broadcasts.

That should make the feature handy for hanging out with friends, interacting with audiences, participating in classes, and collaborating on creative projects.

Live Rooms also gives creators more ways to monetize their work. Viewers can show appreciation for their hosts by buying badges during the streams, and use other interactive features such as Shopping and Live Fundraisers.

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The feature could prove particularly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic — judging by the success of Instagram Live.

Instagram says Live views in the US jumped by 70% from February to March last year, when the World Health Organization labeled the outbreak a pandemic and stay-at-home regulations first came into effect.

Credit: Instagram