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Facebook Hotline is here to challenge Clubhouse — here’s how it stands out

Facebook Hotline app
(Image credit: Facebook)

Ever since Clubhouse launched its unique audio platform with its exclusive invite-only format, everyone has been eager to get in on the action. Facebook has been working on its own Clubhouse rivals, and is currently testing its newest contender: Hotline. 

While Clubhouse won't be invite-only forever, the inability for social media users to jump in and try it has opened up the floodgates for Clubhouse alternatives. Twitter Spaces, LinkedIn Live Audio Rooms, Instagram Live Rooms — they're stacking up, all with their own spin on the Clubhouse formula.

Hotline wants to stand out, which has been described as a mashup of Clubhouse and Instagram Live. Yes, it's not audio only. 

How does Hotline work?

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline can be downloaded on both mobile devices and desktop. The interface is slightly different depending on whether you're using the mobile or desktop app, but it's fairly similar to Clubhouse at a glance. 

Hotline has a speaker section, highlighting the host, and a separate section listing listeners. Listeners are divided into passive and audience members, and those who want are asking questions. 

Hosts can view the questions, which can be downvoted and upvoted. Listeners can join hosts on stage if their question is picked. Audience members also can react with emoji to increase engagement. Of course, the host has control over the room, and can scrap questions, and remove audience members from the room.  

The website will let you sign up to join the waiting list if the test is available in your region. You'll need to have a Twitter account to sign up, and then verify your ID via a follow-up SMS.

Does Hotline record sessions?

One of the main differences to note is that while Clubhouse doesn't record discussions in rooms, Hotline does. Clubhouse states that it makes temporary recordings of sessions solely for the purposes of investigating any potential incidents. If nothing is reported, the recording is deleted when the room ends. Users can't record the goings-on in rooms. 

Hotline generates recordings automatically, sending the host an mp4 and mp3 file of the session. These can be edited for posting on other social media platforms. While Clubhouse's approach is in favor of encouraging discourse without fear of speaking freely, Hotline is taking the opposite route. For the purposes of Q&As that are more formal, its approach makes sense. 

Does Hotline have room limits?

As it currently stands, Hotline doesn't cap the room limit, meaning you can have as many people join your session as you like. Clubhouse is capped at 8,000 which seems generous enough that it wouldn't be an issue. 

Prior to Elon Musk's appearance on the app earlier this year, the cap was 5,000. His session hit the limit with ease, leading to 'overflow' rooms and the bumped up cap. We'll no doubt see the same kind of numbers if he managed to wrangle his list of dream guests — including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Kanye West.    

Hotline video support

Clubhouse uses an audio-only format, which is the feature that rival apps that have been springing up have latched onto. Hotline is mixing things up a bit with an audio format, but gives users the option to switch on the camera on their devices if they want to. 

TechCrunch reports that when listeners join the host 'on stage' they can switch to video, but that the toggle is currently inactive for the test. 

Shabana Arif

Shabana is T3's News Editor covering tech and gaming, and has been writing about video games for almost a decade (and playing them since forever). As well as contributing to Tom's Guide, she's had bylines at major gaming sites during her freelance career before settling down at T3, and has podcasts, streaming, and video content under her belt to boot. Outside of work, she also plays video games and should really think about expanding her hobbies.