Facebook on Wednesday ran its first public beta test of Hotline — a web-based Q&A platform that seems like it was dreamed up as the platform’s answer to the current voice chat app craze.
More specifically, Hotline is designed to function as a sort of love child between Instagram Live and Clubhouse, TechCrunch reports: Creators will address an audience of users, who will then be able to respond by asking questions with either text or audio. Unlike Clubhouse — which is strictly an audio-only platform — Hotline users will have the option to turn their cameras on during events, adding a visual element to an otherwise voice-dominated experience.
Hotline is currently being developed by Facebook’s NPE Team, which handles experimental app development within the company, and is being led by Eric Hazzard, who created the positivity-focused Q&A app tbh that Facebook acquired before pivoting Hotline.
A public livestream of the app’s functionality on Wednesday was led by real estate investor Nick Huber, who spoke about industrial real estate as a second income stream — which should give you a pretty good idea about exactly what type of “creators” Hotline will be attempting to net once it’s live. Close observers of the stream will have noticed that Hotline’s interface closely resembles Clubhouse’s, in that the speaker’s icon is situated atop or astride an “audience,” which is populated by listeners whose profiles appear below the livestream (on the desktop version, the audience is off to the side).
Where the app differs from Clubhouse is in its functionality for “audience” members, who will see the questions they ask appear in a list at the top of the stream which other users can then choose to upvote or downvote. The creator will also have the option to pull listeners onto the “stage” area to join them in a back and forth, which will be something closer to Zoom in nature than its audio-only forebears.
In a statement on Wednesday, Facebook declined to offer specific details about a launch date for Hotline, but said that developers have been encouraged to see how new multimedia features and formats “continue to help people connect and build community.”
“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.