Facebook Hotline mixes Q&A, Clubhouse, Instagram Live

Clubhouse seems to be the new darling of the social networking world, which means everyone and anyone is trying to copy it if they can't buy it. Facebook, or at least its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has already been reported to have expressed intent to develop something to rival Clubhouse and has set its New Product Experimentation (NPE) team to work on a few options. One of those to come out of the woodworks is Hotline and, curiously enough, it may actually be able to stand on its own and not be labeled as a direct Clubhouse clone.

Clubhouse's popularity comes from its almost anonymous audio-only format, making it easy to hold something like town halls or announcements and have participants chime in with questions or reactions, depending on the format or settings. It is also known for its ease of use and, more importantly, its privacy as sessions aren't recorded by default, and those that are recorded are clearly marked.

Facebook's Hotline experiment, on the other hand, only has one of those elements. It does primarily revolve around audio but hosts, which may or may not be the main speaker, have the option to turn on their cameras to show a live video feed in their circular profile. Participants can ask questions which, at least for now, they have to type in and if their question is chosen, the host can pull them onto the stage for one-on-one public interaction.

Unlike the more free-flowing atmosphere of Clubhouse, Hotline is designed more like a Q&A platform, which isn't surprising given its heritage. Aimed to be more informational than informal, it's also no surprise that sessions are recorded by default and creators get both MP3 and MP4 recordings after the event.

Overall, Hotline does sound like something that has a role to play in an increasingly virtual world. More than competing with Clubhouse, it sounds more like a competitor to Zoom or Google Meet, given how these are also used for such Q&A purposes. Of course, Facebook still has other Clubhouse-like experiments and it remains to be seen which ones will actually become an actual product.