Facebook launched its first public beta test of Hotline, a web-based Q&A platform that appears to be the platform’s response to the latest voice chat app craze, on Wednesday.
According to TechCrunch, Hotline is built to act as a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse: creators will address an audience of users, who will then be able to answer by asking questions via text or audio. Unlike Clubhouse, which is solely an audio forum, Hotline users will be able to switch on their cameras during events, adding a visual component to an otherwise voice-dominated experience.
The hotline is being developed by Facebook’s NPE Team, which is in charge of the company’s experimental product creation. Eric Hazzard, who created the positivity-focused Q&A app tbh, which Facebook purchased before pivoting Hotline, is leading the project.
On Wednesday, real estate investor Nick Huber led a public livestream of the app’s features, speaking about industrial real estate as a second income source which should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of “creators” Hotline would be attempting to attract once it’s online.
Hotline’s interface is similar to Clubhouse’s in that the speaker’s icon is positioned atop or astride a “audience,” which is filled by listeners whose profiles appear below the livestream (on the desktop version, the audience is off to the side).
The app’s functionality for “audience” members varies from Clubhouse in that the questions they ask appear in a list at the top of the stream, which other users can choose to upvote or downvote. The maker will also be able to drag listeners into the “stage” environment to participate in a back-and-forth, which will be more like Zoom than its audio-only forerunners.
Facebook declined to include specifics regarding a launch date for Hotline in a statement released on Wednesday, but said that developers have been encouraged to see how new multimedia features and formats “continue to help people communicate and create community.”