If you thought the Trump administration was so nonsensible with its anti-Chinese-app stance, just think of the omnipotent Beijing censorship. Another U.S. app, Clubhouse, has just been struck down in the country, now only accessible via VPN connection.
The invite-only audio platform in Silicon Valley has surged in popularity recently, peaking last week when Elon Musk, so outspoken on Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), appeared in his first Clubhouse discussion. The chat room maxed out the 5,000-people limit during Musk’s live session. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX talked about memes, Covid-19 vaccines, and life on Mars, and also brought in Robinhood’s Vlad Tenev to discuss its role in the slew of Reddit-caused short squeezes. On a side note, as Techcrunch reported, the move was criticized as a promo act by Andreessen Horowitz, an investment firm backing both Robinhood and Clubhouse.
Meanwhile in China, Clubhouse is no longer. The blocking of the app, which took place on Monday, followed a brief but widespread discussion on sensitive topics including the Xinjiang camps, Hong Kong protests, and the ties with Taiwan.
On Beijing’s blacklist, Clubhouse joins social and media sharing apps Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Viber, DailyMotion, Twitch, Twitter, Slack, Snapchat, Pinterest, Quora, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify, and Soundcloud. Not to mention Gmail and other Google apps including Google Play. And there’s more among news media, search engines, video and audio streaming, and other types of platforms.
On the U.S. side, the Trump administration has signed orders blocking WeChat Pay, Tencent QQ and QQ Pay, as well as Alipay, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate, and WPS Office right before Donald Trump left the office, saying the apps massively collected user data. Earlier, WeChat and TikTok stood their ground when the U.S. courts sided with the Chinese apps, requesting evidence of their threat to the U.S. national security. On the new order, signed Jan. 5, Trump gave U.S. businesses 45 days to end transactions with the eight apps. That means, until Feb. 19. What will the new President Joe Biden do about them? So far, the TikTok deal with Oracle and Walmart has been postponed as he decides.
Traditionally, responding to the demand among its now-1 billion mobile internet users, China quickly came up with its local versions of foreign platforms. Now, the South China Morning Post says, the search for a Chinese equivalent of Clubhouse ensues. Since early February, the stock of audio-sharing platform Lizhi Inc. (Nasdaq: LIZI) has jumped about fourfold from $3.30 to $13.46 per share on Tuesday, though the hopes have waned lately, with the shares down 7% today to $12.50 each.
Now only available on the App Store, Clubhouse has said it plans to start working on its Android version “soon.” The startup, which is just a year old and has attracted many celebrities thanks to its feel of exclusivity, is already valued at $1 billion.