The founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 15, 2020.Christof Stache | AFP | Getty ImagesFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday announced that the company is building audio features where users can engage in real-time conversations with others, similar to the app Clubhouse, which gained a lot of buzz in Silicon Valley circles earlier this year.Zuckerberg said Facebook plans to invest a lot in audio features and build them out over the coming years.”We think that audio is of course also going to be a first-class medium, and there are all these different products to be built across this whole spectrum,” Zuckerberg told Casey Newton on Monday on the Sidechannel Discord server.The new feature is called Live Audio Rooms, and the company expects it will be available to everyone on the Facebook app and Messenger this summer, the company said in a blog post.The company will start to test Live Audio Rooms within groups on Facebook.”You already have these communities that are organized around interests, and allowing people to come together and have rooms where they can talk, I think it’ll be a very useful thing,” he said.Facebook said it plans to allow users to charge others for access to their Live Audio Rooms through a single purchase or a subscription as a way for creators to monetize the new feature.The feature comes with little surprise. Facebook has been known to copy products from social media rivals such as Snap, and The New York Times in February reported that the company was working on a product to compete with Clubhouse, a fast-growing San Francisco start-up that popularized real-time audio rooms.Zuckerberg also announced an upcoming product called Soundbites, short-form audio clips, such as jokes, that users will be able to listen to in a feed. Facebook will use an algorithm to determine which audio clips are played for each user. The company will build sound editing tools that can be used to produce audio for Soundbites.”It basically is creating this dynamic, algorithmic feed based on your interests around different audio content that you can consume in the background but is this snackable thing,” he said.Facebook said it plans to make an Audio Creator Fund to pay users to create content for SoundBites. The company will start to test out Soundbites over the next few months.Zuckerberg also said Facebook is working on podcast features that will allow users to discover, share and listen to podcasts within the app.Finally, an integration with Spotify could allow musicians to more easily share their music on the social network and would allow users to easily play music within the social network, Zuckerberg said. The integration is known internally within Facebook as Project Boombox.
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