Facebook’s first crack at a Clubhouse competitor is a new Q&A platform called Hotline

Facebook’s experimental app development division, the NPE Team, has released a new Q&A platform that borrows concepts from buzzy, audio-only social network Clubhouse but with dashes of live-streaming thrown in.

The platform is called Hotline, and it featured its first Q&A with investor Nick Huber earlier today, according to a report from TechCrunch. A website for the service is online now and allows sign-ins via Twitter, but it features only a waitlist and a tool for applying to host your own show. TechCrunch says Facebook has created designs for mobile versions of the app, though those do not appear to be live at this moment.

News of Facebook building its own version of Clubhouse first surfaced in February, though Hotline is said to be a different product than the ongoing Clubhouse competitor being built by the team behind the video chat platform Messenger Rooms, TechCrunch reports. Twitter has been openly testing its Spaces alternative, too, putting more pressure on Clubhouse as whispers of a new funding round valuing the company at an eye-popping $4 billion valuation surfaced earlier this week.

Hotline works differently than Clubhouse and Spaces. It allows hosts to use video and to schedule more formal presentations with Q&A built in, rather than the more open-ended, audio-only conversations that take place on Clubhouse. Hotline also allows hosts to record their sessions in both audio and video formats, TechCrunch says.

The core Q&A component of Hotline involves the hosts fielding questions from the audience supplied via text, while audience members can then upvote which questions they want answered and then respond to the ongoing conversation with emoji reactions. Hosts can also bring individuals from the audience up onto the virtual stage to ask their question live and potentially engage in a longer conversation. In that way, Hotline events seem designed more like a cross between a radio show and a Twitch stream, where the audience is asked to weigh in here and there but control of the conversation remains firmly with the host.

The project is being led by Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook when his app tbh, a platform for sending anonymous compliments to your friends, was acquired in 2017. Facebook later shut tbh down, despite Hazzard’s success attracting millions of users to the platform. But it sounds like his expertise in creating these new mobile experiences is now being put to good use at Facebook as part of the NPE Team, which in the past has released music-making apps like Collab and Bars.


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