The future of social networks might be audio

The future of social networks might be audio

A new wave of apps are baking the immediacy and rawness of audio into the core experience—but there are serious moderation issues to be addressed.

Every morning, as Nandita Mohan sifts through her emails, her college pals are in her ear — recounting their day, reminiscing, reflecting on what it’s like to have graduated in the throes of a pandemic.

Mohan isn’t on the phone, nor is she listening to an especially personal podcast; she’s using Cappuccino, an app that takes voice recordings from a closed group of friends or family and delivers them as downloadable audio.

“Just hearing all of us makes me value our friendship, and hearing their voices is a gamechanger,” the 23-year-old Bay Area software programmer says. 

Audio messaging has been available for years; voice memos on WhatsApp are especially big in India and WeChat audio messages are popular in China. And the pandemic’s social distancing has made voice memos a easy way for people to stay in touch while bypassing Zoom fatigue. But now a new wave of hip apps are baking the immediacy and rawness of audio into the core experience, making voice the way in which people connect again. From phone calls, to messaging, and back to audio—the way we use our phones may be coming full circle.