Clubhouse is trying to make a comeback

Remember Clubhouse? At the peak of pandemic lockdowns, the invite-only social audio app soared with 10x month to month growth, then faded from public discourse almost as quickly as a16z investors opened their wallets.

Now, Clubhouse is throwing a hail mary to try to become relevant again. Today, the company announced "the new Clubhouse," which introduces a new format called "chats."

"To picture a Chat, imagine if your group texts and your Instagram Stories met at the park, talked for hours, became best friends and fell in love," Clubhouse's blog post says.

We aren't really sure what that means, but we appreciate the oomph. To put it more directly, Clubhouse chats put you and your friends into an asynchronous group, where you can send voice messages that appear like entries into an Instagram story, rather than an individual text. And unlike iMessage, Clubhouse transcribes these voice messages.

Chats can be set as friends only, or friends of friends.

This won't replace live audio rooms, which will still exist on Clubhouse, but chats could possibly inspire users to check in more often to hear from their friends, rather than whoever's hosting a live conversation at the time.

This could be a critical opportunity for Clubhouse to make good on its hype amid an extended period of struggle. In April, the company cut more than half of its staff, and less than a year before that, the company conducted another round of layoffs. Luckily for Clubhouse, the company claims to still have years of runway -- but consumers might not be willing to give them so many chances to win them back.