People familiar with the matter said that TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is developing an app similar to Clubhouse for China, because the global success of the US-based audio chat service has stimulated a wave of imitators in the country.

In the past month, at least twelve similar applications have been released, and this momentum began to accelerate after Clubhouse was banned in China in early February. The clubhouse’s users have surged, and they have participated in discussions on sensitive topics such as Xinjiang internment camps and Hong Kong’s independence.

New products include Xiaomi’s adaptation of its Mi Talk app into an invitation-only audio service for professionals last week. Industry executives said that more products are currently being developed.

Two sources who have not been authorized to communicate with the media but declined to be named said that ByteDance’s plan is still in its early stages.

One of the sources said that discussions on TikTok and ByteDance at Clubhouse have prompted interest in the genre of ByteDance executives (including CEO Zhang Yiming).

ByteDance declined to comment.

The success of Clubhouse, each chat room can accommodate up to 8,000 people, a discussion between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev The increase in the number of users has made the potential of audio chat services fully realized.

However, in China, similar applications are expected to have Chinese characteristics to adapt to the censorship system and government supervision.

One such example is Lizhi’s Zhiya app listed on the Nasdaq, which was launched in 2013 and its users usually talk about video games or singing.

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The application requires real name registration, and Lizhi CEO Marco Lai said this is the key to China. The company also hires employees to listen to conversations in every room and deploys artificial intelligence tools to eliminate “harmful” content, such as pornography or politically sensitive issues.

The app was briefly withdrawn by Chinese regulators in 2019, but the app was restored after Lizhi made rectifications.

Lizhi’s Lai said that outside of politics, there is still a lot of room for voice chat applications in China.

He said: “Chinese adults don’t like to express their opinions in public. They have been taught to keep a low profile since they were young.” “However, in China, entertainment is a very good way. You invite everyone to play together. “

Some new entrants are in trouble.

Inke, known for its real-time streaming platform, launched a similar app Duihuaba this month, which recruited venture capitalists, fashion critics and other celebrities to host conversations.

However, it abruptly cancelled the app two weeks after its debut, stating that it needed further improvements without elaborating.

Thomson Reuters 2021 ©

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