Naval Ravikant's AirChat is a social app built not on text, but on conversation


AirChat is a new social media app that encourages users to “just talk.”

The previous version of AirChat was was released last year, but the team led by AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and former Tinder product executive Brian Norgaard rebuilt the app and relaunched it on iOS and Android yesterday. Currently invite-only, Airchat is already ranked #27 among social networking on Apple's App Store.

Visually, AirChat should feel fairly familiar and intuitive, with the ability to follow other users, scroll through a feed of posts, then reply, like, and share those posts. The difference is that posts and replies are audio recordings, which the app then transcribes.

When you open AirChat, messages automatically start playing, and you view them quickly by swiping up and down. If you're so inclined, you can actually stop the audio and just read the text; Users can also share photos and videos. But it seems everyone's focus is on audio and Ravikant describes it as changing the dynamics compared to text-based social apps.

airchat feed screenshot

After joining AirChat this morning, most of the posts I saw were about the app itself, with Ravikant and Norgaard answering questions and seeking feedback.

Ravikant said, “Humans are made to live in harmony with other humans, it just needs a natural sound.” “Online text-only media has given us the illusion that people can't get along, but in reality everyone can.”

This isn't the first time tech startups have bet on voice as the next big social media thing. But AirChat's asynchronous, threaded posts offer a vastly different experience than the live chat rooms that flourished for a short time on Clubhouse and Twitter spaces. Nørgaard argued that this approach overcomes the barrier of stage fright to participate, because “you can take as many passes as you want to write a message here, and no one will know.”

In fact, he said that in conversations with early users, the team found that “the majority of people using AirChat today are very introverted and shy.”

Personally, I haven't convinced myself to post anything yet. I was more interested in seeing how other people were using the app — plus, I have a love-hate relationship with the sound of my voice.

Still, there's something to be said for listening to Ravikant and Nørgaard, rather than just reading the transcription, who can remember the nuances of enthusiasm, tone, etc. And I'm especially curious to see that without the lame jokes and nonsense. How to translate postings (or not into audio)

I also have a little problem with the speed. The app defaults to 2x audio playback, which I thought seemed unnatural, especially if the whole idea is promoting human connection. You can reset the speed by pressing the pause button, but at 1x, I noticed that when listening to longer posts I would start skipping, then I would usually skip ahead before listening to the entire audio. But maybe that's okay.

Screenshot of Navya Ravikant's comment stating that AirChat is not an X competitor

Meanwhile, Ravikant's belief in the power of voice to reduce incivility does not eliminate the need for content moderation features. He said the feed is governed by “some complicated rules about hiding spam and trolls and people you or they probably don't want to hear from”, but at the time of publishing he did not respond to a follow-up user question about content moderation. Had given. ,

When asked about monetization — that is, when we might start seeing ads, audio or otherwise — Ravikant said, “There is no pressure on the company to monetize.” (He described himself as “not the only investor” but “a major investor” in the company.)

“I could care less about monetization,” he said. “We'll run this thing unconditionally if we have to.”