Social audio app Open Doors is no-frills Clubhouse, but is it late to the party?
When Clubhouse arrived in April 2020, the social audio app cut through the pandemic-induced isolation with its invite-only exclusivity and intrigue. At that time, it felt like the app was here to stay, but its charm is now fading fast with app downloads declining 80 percent year over year, according to SensorTower.
However, social audio networks remain popular, with 2021 seeing around 20 million app downloads.
Swedish caller identification player Truecaller is the latest to take a stab at the audio-only conversation feature with Open Doors. At the app’s launch earlier this month, Nami Zarringhalam, Co-founder of True Software Scandinavian AB—the parent company of Truecaller, said the company wants to facilitate impromptu conversations with people in your contact list.
Open Doors currently has a 3.5 rating and over 5,000 downloads on Google Play Store. It is also available on Apple App Store.
How does it work?
The app opens with a quick brief of what Open Doors is all about—having “endless conversations”. After signing up with your mobile number and verifying it with an OTP, the app creates your profile using your name, gender, and profile picture.
While the app asks to access your call logs and phone contact, you can deny the permission—like how this writer did. However, doing that has little significance since the app relies on network effects—it invites your friends to join the conversation using your contact list. So, it arm twists you into sharing your contact details since you would not be able to use the app otherwise.
Credit: YourStory Design
However, the app claims it doesn’t share data with any third parties, and it is completely encrypted.
Open Doors’ starting page introduces you to its orange, purple, pink, and white themes. To start a conversation, the app again asks permission to use your microphone and contacts.
The conversation on the app is akin to a conference call, with music playing in the background while you wait for people to join. One doesn’t have to specify the topic of the chat either.
The app lives up to its name as it lets you start a conversation anytime and invite people in your contact list who have the app downloaded. You can also share the link directly with your friends over WhatsApp, Twitter messenger, or Gmail, among other platforms. Relying on network effects, Open Doors enables your friends to also invite more folks from their contacts to join the chat.
Truecaller says it hasn’t put any limits on the number of people joining a conversation. However, the company told TechCrunch that it could introduce a limit soon. While the app doesn’t record any audio room conversations, the company says it also doesn’t share any details externally.
Apart from English, Open Doors can also be used in Hindi, Urdu, French, and Spanish.
While the app doesn’t offer much clarity on how the conversations are being moderated, everyone—including the person starting the conversation—can mute or unmute anyone. The week-old app offers no insight yet into whether it can restrict a user from accessing the app, and the basis for doing that.
Offering simplicity, the app has an ‘open door’ policy when it comes to creating an account and signing up. However, limiting the conversation to people in your contact list can be a drawback as the network effects may not kick in as desired.
Not many people in this writer’s contact list were available for a conversation. While the audio room atmosphere creates a bit of intrigue as to what other people might be discussing, if no one is talking, the one-person conversation could be a damper.
Also, app stores feature a slew of audio conversation networks, including Twitter’s Spaces and Spotify’s Greenroom, that have more control and structure. While Open Doors allows users to approach others over WhatsApp, Twitter and Gmail, it doesn’t incentivise users to shift from such established social networks and download another app altogether.
However, Open Doors could work well for those who have a close-knit relationship with people on their contact list. But, again, why would they switch from any other social media app?