Invitation-only audio social network is the hot new app in tech circles 

Airchat has been downloaded more than 45,000 times worldwide since its initial launch in mid-2023, according to research from Sensor Tower. — Image by freepik

Invitation links have been flying around Silicon Valley the past few days to an exclusive app that’s a combination of voice notes and Twitter, called Airchat.

Airchat, still limited to an invitation-only audience, is the latest app being hyped in tech circles, and comes from AngelList co-creator Naval Ravikant and Brian Norgard, Tinder’s former chief product officer. It looks somewhat like a Twitter feed upon opening with blocks of text. They’re transcripts of voice notes posted by users, which you can play to hear. Those voice notes can be hearted or reposted, similar to Twitter, which is now called X.

But Ravikant said the point of the app isn’t to catch up on what folks have been saying while you weren’t staring at your phone. “It’s rather to see what’s going on around you right now,” he said, like dipping into conversations at a house party. Ravikant said during an interview on Airchat, saying he preferred to answer questions in public on the app.

“I want a house party in my pocket,” he said. “I want to be able to pull out this phone and talk to someone interesting and delightful and witty anytime I want.”

Airchat has been downloaded more than 45,000 times worldwide since its initial launch in mid-2023, according to research from Sensor Tower. More than 30,000 of those downloads happened after it relaunched this month, kicking off the current cycle of enthusiasm. Almost half of the downloads are from users based in the US.

Over the last few days, Airchat users have discussed topics ranging from the war in the Middle East to fitness and Bryan Johnson’s anti-ageing quest. But the most prominent topic of discussion is Airchat itself. Will it become the new dating app, opening up users to people they might have on first blush rejected if using Hinge or Tinder, because they liked the person’s voice and had a thoughtful conversation? Is Airchat going to be the next big thing?

In a message posted to the platform this past weekend, Ravikant said he joined Norgard’s efforts to build the app a year ago, becoming more involved “just a couple of months ago”. Since then, funding for Airchat has come from Ravikant, Jeff Fagnan, founder partner of Accomplice, and OpenAI’s Sam Altman, who “threw in a check, kind of blindly”, Ravikant said.

“He’s not really involved, but he just, I think, believes in anything that uses AI,” Ravikant said of Altman. “None of our investors has really any influence over us.”

The app is vaguely reminiscent of Clubhouse, the audio chat room service that saw a boom during the pandemic and has since withered away. Last year, Clubhouse cut its staff by half and has shifted its strategy away from large group chat rooms to become a messaging service.

As of Tuesday, Apple Inc’s app store ranked Airchat at No 29 among social networking apps, behind the obvious options including Signal and Meta Platforms Inc’s Threads, as well as lesser-known options including Locket and Wizz.

The app’s main feed can feel noisy, like jumping into a random conversation at the midway point. Asked if he’s worried users may find it chaotic as the app gets more crowded, Ravikant said the goal of Airchat is not necessarily to amass a following. It’s to “let people find who they want to talk to”.

“You don’t walk into a party with tens of thousands of people and then immediately say, ‘OK, I need 100 friends right now’,” he said. – Bloomberg

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