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Twitter Spaces to launch publicly next month, may include Spaces-only tweets

Sarah Perez
·5-min read

Twitter Spaces, the social network's Clubhouse rival, is working towards a public launch in April, the company announced in comments made in a public Twitter Space audio room on Wednesday. According to the Space's host, Alex aka @akkhosh on Twitter, the company intends to make it possible for anyone to host a Twitter Spaces room of their own sometime in April.

"So, very soon," the Twitter employee noted. "That's where we're headed."

TechCrunch immediately reached out to Twitter to fact check his statements on Wednesday. Given that, in the context a broader conversation about a beta product that just rolled out to testers on Android a week ago -- and for joining Spaces only -- his comments could have been interpreted to mean that Android beta testers would also gain the ability to host their own Spaces by April.

That would still be a fairly quick pace of development for a product that only launched into public testing late last year.

However, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed that we can take Alex at his word.

"Can absolutely confirm that he meant everyone on Android and iOS, not just beta testers," the spokesperson told TechCrunch. In other words, the company is making Twitter Spaces available to the public user base in a matter of weeks.

The speed of development now taking place at Twitter has been notable. In just a few months, Twitter has launched its audio chat room feature to public testing and has quickly iterated on the product to tweak elements like it titles and descriptions, scheduling options, support for co-hosts and moderators, guest lists, and more. When forthcoming changes are announced -- like Android support, co-hosts, or scheduling options, for example -- they're promised to roll out in a matter of weeks, not months.

A few other ideas were also discussed during yesterday's Twitter Spaces session. The company said it's considering support for using music in Spaces and thinking about better ways of integrating tweets.

For the former, the goal would be to offer Spaces' hosts some sort of welcoming music they could play for their listeners. The company has also discussed the idea of offering users the way to tweet inside the Space directly, where tweets would not be displayed on your public timeline. There are various ways this could be accomplished -- for example, by offering an ephemeral, fleeting chat room inside the Space, similar to Twitter's older live video app Periscope, or by offering a dedicated timeline just for the Space itself, which could be more complex to build.

Of course, there are some concerns with rushing a product like Twitter Spaces to launch. In Spaces' competitor, Clubhouse, users are still regularly reporting dealing with verbal abuse and bad actors who are looking to take advantage of the platform as a place to hustle or scam people.

It's less clear to what extent Twitter Spaces has been impacted by similar issues, as its product is still non-public. But one Twitter Spaces user who joined during yesterday's session talked about how their recent Twitter Space was hijacked by a fan group who attempted to take over the discussion. While these particular hijackers would be placated by having the ability to run their own Spaces session, it's easy to imagine how a coordinated effort to derail a Twitter Space could still be a problem in the weeks to come.

Twitter, in the early days of Spaces, had spoken publicly about how it would first ensure that "women and those from marginalized backgrounds" -- a group of people who "are disproportionately impacted by abuse and harm on the platform," a product designer had said -- would be the first testers of the product to ensure it's built with safety in mind. But in the weeks that have followed, there has not been as much said about Twitter Space's anti-abuse measures or policies, as the team's focus has been directed more on the product itself, and its various bells and whistles.

Even when taking the time to speak to analysts and investors or sit down for interviews, Twitter execs and product leaders have tended to gloss over why it keeps building new tools -- like its Stories feature Fleets and now, Spaces -- to encourage conversations from those who are too afraid to tweet.

The fact is that many are afraid because Twitter has not yet successfully made its platform a place where users aren't trolled, abused, or attacked -- for sometimes even the most benign statements or missteps.

One feature that could potentially help protect users by holding abusers accountable is recording Spaces. Twitter earlier said it aims to build in a way to natively record Spaces conversations. When on the record, fewer people may be willing to speak abusively, perhaps. That could encourage more thoughtful conversations but could still potentially scare other users off from trying the product.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse's long-term potential. There's a question as to whether some of these platforms will see dwindling usage when the world re-opens as the pandemic ends and the conference and networking circuits heat back up. In that light, Twitter Spaces may end up having more long-term staying power as it's connected to Twitter's broader product and plans to make its platform a place for creators to organize, and eventually monetize their fan bases.

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