April 30

What Is Airchat?

Social Media

Airchat has entered the, uh, chat.

Compared to last year's bonkers amount of social media news, 2024 has been somewhat quiet. But the "new app buzz" is once again kicking into gear, this time around "social walkie-talkie" platform Airchat. 

Helmed by former Tinder chief product officer Brian Norgard and AngelList founder Naval Ravikant, Airchat is essentially Twitter but with voice notes. (We said the app was new, we didn't say the idea was). But thanks to a small but powerful list of early adopters and the backing of Silicon Valley's hype machine (equal parts impressive and lampoonable), Airchat looks like it will get its shot to impress — and even possibly stick.

What Is Airchat?

Airchat is a feed-based social media platform just like Twitter (or X, ugh) and Threads. In fact, it even kind of looks like those apps when you first log on. There are blocks of text next to user profile pictures. You can scroll through. There are options to like posts, share posts, respond with your own comments — you know, 2006 stuff. 

The difference is those text blobs are transcriptions of audio posts. You can't actually post text at all. And if your volume is up, you'll soon hear each and every one of those posts come to life with the voices of the person who posted them. 

So now you get the whole "social walkie-talkie" description. 

There are different "channels" a user can join in order to talk about certain subjects, ranging from the most nebulous topics like "events" and "food" to "Manic," "Swifties," and "Only Speak Korean" — a place to, you guessed it, only post in Korean. 

If any of this sounds like an asynchronous version of Clubhouse, the pandemic-era app that skyrocketed to popularity before fizzling out, well, remember — we said Airchat is a new app, not a new idea. (In an ironic twist, Clubhouse pivoted in September 2023 to more or less be what Airchat is trying to be now, with a focus on chats, feeds, and group messages).

Airchat originally launched in 2023, but few people noticed. After a relaunch in April 2024, several notable figures jumped on board

So Who Uses It?

Airchat was downloaded more than 50,000 times halfway through April, good enough to catapult it to the top 30 of the App Store's Social Networking apps. But for a while, the app was invite-only, due in part to an influx of users causing serious issues. 

Now, Airchat is once again free and open to anybody to download from the App Store. Just how many people are actually doing that? It's hard to say. The most popular Channel is "AI Talk," where users are "discussing how we can build the future of human computer interaction with AI!" It has a little over nine thousand members. Ravikant's profile @naval has 16,000 followers. 

A non-scientific scan of most conversations reveals the usual suspects of Silicon Valley early adopters — techies, finance bros, startup founders hustling to stay on top of trends, and the chronically curious. According to Wired, the app also includes users like Gary Vaynerchuck and Y Combinator founder Garry Tan, two personalities who drive their attract their own type of tagalongs. Ravikant also mentioned in a public Airchat post that Open AI CEO Sam Altman "kind of blindly" put some money into the company. That almost certainly attracted some of Altman's loyal following.

So, you know, these are the kinds of crowds you're likely to see in the early stages on the app. 

Should I Be On Airchat?

There are several charming things about Airchat in its current state. The way profile pictures animate when their audio starts to play. The seamless transcription of audio to text with impressive accuracy. 

But there are plenty of quirks that render the experience a bit unnerving, too. 

For starters, all of the voice notes are automatically sped up times two, giving everybody a sort of unnatural cadence to their speech. In theory it makes sense; a lot of people talk slowly and, you know, "Don't bore us, get to the chorus." But it certainly reduces a lot of the charm the app otherwise fosters through a seemingly "more human" interaction with people. You also have a video option, because, why not?

But you're also not really allowed to go back or edit your audio snippet, so as soon as you release that button, your chat is going live or you're deleting it immediately. 

And frankly, the real "why" of Airchat hasn't quite revealed itself yet. After all, both X and Threads have pretty much identical audio functions. For many users, those are afterthoughts. It's not clear if making audio chat the star of the show will inspire more people to adopt it where they otherwise haven't. 

And of course, there are still plenty of safety concerns, both in terms of content moderation and privacy policies. Ravikant says the app will never sell your data or let large language models train on your content. But, you know, people have gone back on bigger data promises than that. 

If you're the type of person who is curious enough to hop on and see what the conversation is about, there's no reason not to give it a try. Especially if you're the type of person who likes to comment "First" on posts you think will go viral. But until Airchat proves it's something that people actually want to use, there's not a whole lot of incentive to try and build community there. 


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