UPDATED 22:24 EDT / JUNE 21 2021


Facebook’s Audio Rooms and podcasts are now live

Facebook Inc.’s challenge to the audio social network app Clubhouse is off the ground, as the company announced today that its “Live Audio Rooms” is now rolling out in the U.S.

In a blog post, Facebook explained public figures, as well as select Groups, will be the first to be given the opportunity to host live conversations. Public figures will be able to invite friends, followers, verified public figures or listeners in the room to be a speaker, Facebook said, and the host can invite speakers in advance or during the conversation.

There will be a maximum of 50 speakers but no limit to how many people can listen in – unlike Clubhouse, which does impose limits. The hosting room will have to be on Facebook’s iOS app, although listeners can be using iOS or Android.

As for how you’ll find out when a discussion is going to take place, Facebook said people should see that in their News Feed. If friends or followers are about to join one, users should be notified in their feed. If they want to join in, too, there will be a “raise a hand” tab to send a request.

Not everyone will be able to speak, but listeners can at least send stars down the line. If they do, they’ll be bumped up to what Facebook calls the “front row.” In doing that, the host will be able to recognize who’s supporting them. This could turn into a moneymaking venture, since as those stars will be available to purchase, with Facebook saying it won’t take a cut of the earnings until 2023.

With Groups, it will be the admins who decide who hosts a live conversation. The conversation can be a private or public one. Groups will also be able to raise cash for a nonprofit or fundraiser by asking people to hit the donate button.

Facebook said it wants to make this a “first-class medium,” although it’s not the only company that has jumped on the live audio bandwagon. Twitter Inc., as well as Spotify AB, have also recently launched similar class acts, with Microsoft Corp/-owned LinkedIn soon to follow.

Facebook’s podcast offering has also gone live today, which will be available through a mini-player or full-screen player either while someone has the Facebook browser open or when it has been closed.

Later this summer, the company said, it will roll out additional features such as captions and the ability to create and share short clips of a podcast. “Over time, we’ll build more unique social experiences around podcasts that make use of Facebook’s best interactive and personalized features,” it said.

Photo: Brett Jordan/UnSplash

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