October 25, 2021

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Facebook app boss talks about Live Audio Rooms rival Clubhouse

Facebook app boss talks about Live Audio Rooms rival Clubhouse

Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app.

Photo credit: Fiji Simo

Facebook app chief Fidji Simo told CNBC that the social media giant has been working on audio for years as it prepares to launch its rival Clubhouse.

Earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is building a product where users can engage in real-time conversations with others, as they can on Clubhouse.

Asked if Facebook looked into Clubhouse’s success before announcing its rival product, Simo told CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa: “Audio has been on our mind for a long time.”

Simo went on to say that the technologies used to power Facebook’s rival Clubhouse, known as Live Audio Rooms, have been in development for many years.

“The artificial intelligence needed to bring these magical audio creation tools that can make you sound like you’re next to a beach or next to a river, or can change your voice to sound like an alien, all of these are technologies that we ‘build. for a long time, “he said. Another example is spatial audio, he said, adding that Facebook users will soon be able to “position people in the room so that when you listen to the content … you are in the room with them.”

“All of these technologies take a long time to build, and it’s something we’ve obviously been working on for many years,” said Simo. “In addition to that, I will say that all the investments in video in the last … five to six years have really influenced what we do now with audio. We consider audio to be very complementary to all the formats we already offer. “

Bad timing?

Facebook is known for copying products from social media rivals like Snap, and the New York Times reported in February that the company was working on a product to rival Clubhouse, a fast-growing San Francisco start-up that popularized real-time audio rooms.

But the buzz around Clubhouse is now being questioned.

The clubhouse became popular when people weren’t allowed to go out as much, due to coronavirus freezes, but iPhone app download numbers dropped as restrictions eased in places like the US and the UK.

Simo admitted that live audio “has a lot of challenges,” but pointed out that Facebook is launching several audio formats that will allow people to listen when they can.

In addition to Live Audio Rooms, which launches this summer, Facebook is planning a short-lived audio product called Soundbites. It is also working on a feature that will allow users to discover, share and listen to podcasts within the app.

The full interview will air on CNBC World in the coming weeks.