Facebook is testing an app called Hotline that shares some of the features of the invitation-only audio chat room app Clubhouse, but allows speakers, or creators to appear on video as well as audio, TechCrunch has reported. Hotline is led by Eric Hazzard, who created the app ‘tbh’ that was acquired by Facebook in 2017 and shut down not long afterwards.
The first creator to try the product was real estate investor Nick Huber, who ran a session yesterday afternoon (April 7th). As someone who markets to people interested in investing or personal/professional development, he’s apparently one of Facebook’s target Hotline creators.
Hotline bears some resemblance to Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and other audio-only chat room networks. To the left on PC and top on mobile is a speaker section featuring the event host either as a live video stream or icon for audio. On the right or below are the event’s listeners.
Anyone can participate as a listener simply by logging in with Twitter and verifying their identity with SMS. Audience members can choose to either just listen or ask questions, and can up- or downvote questions from a list. The creator can use that list to choose the next question to answer, and can even pull the questioner onto the stage area to create a conversation. As it stands now, listeners that come onto the stage appear in audio only, but there’s an option to choose video that hasn’t been enabled yet.
Hosts fully control each session and can remove listeners or questions. Facebook employees are also moderating early events and will remove anyone that violates its terms of service, community standards, or other rules. Unlike with Clubhouse, sessions are also recorded both as audio and video files. Creators can then upload those to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or other networks.
Hotline may appeal more to professional users because of the fact that sessions are recorded and questions are posed in text first before being discussed. As it stands now, anyone in the US can join a Hotline and there’s no current limit on the number of listeners.