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Naval Ravikant’s Airchat is a social app built around conversation, not text

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

Previous versions of Airchat were Released last year, but a team led by AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and former Tinder product executive Brian Norgard rebuilt the app and relaunched it on iOS and Android yesterday. Currently invite-only, Airchat is ranked 27th among social networks in the Apple App Store.

Visually, Airchat should feel very familiar and intuitive, with the ability to follow other users, scroll through a feed of posts, and then reply to, like, and share those posts. The difference is that posts and responses are recorded and then transcribed by the app.

Messages automatically start playing when you open Airchat, and you can quickly cycle through them by swiping up or down. If you want, you can actually pause the audio and just read the text; users can also share photos and videos. But audio seems to be the focus of everyone’s attention, with Ravikant describing it as changing the dynamic compared to text-based social apps.

Screenshot of air chat feed

After joining Airchat this morning, most of the posts I saw were about the app itself, with Ravikant and Norgard answering questions and asking for feedback.

“Human beings are meant to get along with other people and just need the sounds of nature,” Ravikant said. “Text-only online media gives us the illusion that people can’t get along, when in fact everyone can get along. “

This isn’t the first time tech startups are betting on voice as the next big social media thing. But Airchat’s asynchronous, threaded posts offer a very different experience than the live chat rooms that briefly flourished on Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces. Norgaard believes this approach removes the stage fright barrier to participation because “you can write the message here as many times as you like without anyone knowing.”

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

Personally, I haven’t convinced myself to post anything yet. I’m more interested in seeing how other people use the app – plus, I have a love-hate relationship with my own voice.

Still, there’s something to be said for hearing Ravikant and Norgaard explain their vision, rather than just reading a transcript, which can miss nuances of passion, tone, etc. And I’m particularly curious to see how deadpan jokes and trash-talking translate (or don’t) into audio.

I also struggled a bit with speed. The app defaults to 2x audio playback, which I think sounds unnatural, especially if the whole idea is to promote human connection. You can reset the speed by holding down the pause button, but at 1x I noticed that I would start skimming when listening to longer posts, and then I would often skip ahead before listening to the full audio. But maybe that’s not bad.

Screenshot of Naval Ravikant's comment saying Airchat is not an X competitor

Ravikant, meanwhile, believes voice can reduce acrimony, but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the need for content moderation capabilities. He said the feed is driven by “some complex rules around hiding spam, trolls, and people you or they may not want to hear from,” but as of press time, he had not responded to follow-up users regarding the content Review issues.

When asked about monetization, i.e. when we will start seeing ads, audio or other content, Ravikant said, “There is no pressure on the company to monetise”. (He describes himself as “not the only investor” but “a big investor” in the company.)

“I don’t care much about monetization,” he said. “We will operate on a shoestring if necessary.”

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