Sunday, 2023 October 1

Clubhouse blocked in China as app clones begin to spread

Social audio chat app Clubhouse has been blocked in China as of late Monday, according to individual reports and social media posts.

Users trying to access the app from Mainland China have been getting an “SLL error,” indicating that a secure connection to the server cannot be made.

Despite Clubhouse being formally not available to iPhone users in China, as it was not listed in the local Apple Store, Chinese users were able to download the app after changing the location of their app store. The frenzy around the app even created a market for invites on Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplace Taobao, Idle Fish, and Tencent’s WeChat, with invitation codes selling for around RMB 400 (USD 62).

Clubhouse is free, but users can only access the app after receiving an invite code from another user. The app is also currently only available for iPhone users. Despite the exclusivity, as of January 24, Clubhouse gained over 2 million users, with growing popularity after personalities such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg opened their profiles and hosted public audio rooms.

Clubhouse’s connectivity has been severed in China. Source: Clubhouse screenshot.

Even before the restriction of Clubhouse, a host of similar Chinese applications looking to take advantage of the hype around audio-based chat rooms emerged in China.

Justin Sun, a Chinese entrepreneur and investor who made his name in cryptocurrencies, recently invested in Chinese audio app Two, which he called China’s Clubhouse and was released on February 2, for both iOS and Android. Other imitators include Dizhua, Tiya, and Yalla. However, it is still unclear whether Chinese lookalikes will adopt Clubhouse’s exclusive invite-only model.

Tiya’s parent company, audio community and interactive audio entertainment firm Lizhi (NASDAQ: LIZI) saw its shares rise from USD 3.65 on February 1 to over USD 14.49 on February 4.

The company providing technical support to Clubhouse—Shanghai-headquartered Agora (NASDAQ: API)—has also seen its stock surging over 30% in the first two days of February.

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