There’s new old social media network on the block. This one is the brainchild of venture capitalist Naval Ravikant and former Tinder product chief Brian Norgard. And yes, there is an AI hook. Airchat is another take on an audio-based social app, but unlike Clubhouse, it might have the potential to stick around for more than a few months.

Airchat marries text and sound

Airchat is built on the idea of talking. Just talking. Users share updates in form of audio and video messages on their feeds. But feeds themselves are made up of only text. Airchat uses AI transcription to turn those audio and video clips into text on the feed.

At first glance, an Airchat feed looks like Twitter or Threads, filled with text updates and options to reply or repost. But as you scroll through it, something novel happens: The feed talks to you, as Airchat plays the audio or video from the update aloud while you’re reading it. Scroll down to another message and you’ll hear that user speaking to you. And you can reply with your own voice just as quickly. 

Another peculiar element: The feed scrolls for you. After Airchat is done playing one update, it automatically scrolls on, playing the audio for the next update a highlighted reply. Call it hands-free social media—imagine loading up your feed while in your car, and listen to updates in the background like a podcast. (Yes, Airchat will keep talking to you if turn off the screen.)

Airchat also has DMs, where you can talk using the same methods, but privately. Unfortunately, if you’re not big on hearing messages being read aloud, there’s not much else to do on the app. You can sign up using your number or an Apple account, but you will have to provide access to your contacts to find other users, and to send out invites. The app also requires access to Apple’s dictation feature. 

Is Airchat worth trying?

Like all new social networks, Airchat is currently filled with enthusiast Silicon Valley bros. As of this writing, it is also invite-only, and the company is still figuring out how to expand the invite system, or to make the app public. They are limiting your invites to just two people right now, which is a shame if you’re hoping to get your friends onboard quickly.

The current version of Airchat is a reboot of sorts. The previous iteration was more akin to Clubhouse, as it was focused only on audio messages and interactions. Now, thanks to the text transcription, the feed is a lot more alive, and interactive. 

One thing that Airchat has nailed is creating a seamless experience. Recording and posting audio and seeing it show up as text almost instantly is quite impressive. And it’s that instant gratification loop that could keep people coming back. 

But questions about its future viability, not to mention its basic functionality, still remain. Right now, Airchat has no major moderation system to speak of, and in my testing, I found the app froze on occasion.

Moreover, the future of a social network depends on much more than just a cool hook. It needs to develop a core user base and grow from there. And that’s hard to see happening right now. As the invites are limited, there aren’t many people on Airchat yet (a problem that nascent platforms like Bluesky have also struggled with). We’ll only be able to realize the utility (if any) of a talking social network once there are more people talking, and about interesting and varied things.

Is it worth tracking down an Airchat invite right now? Honestly, you can wait it out. Social networks are all about people, and without your people, this one will feel just like yet another channel you forget to update. Wait for the public release. Once that happens, you can dip your toes in to see if this kind of audio interaction with strangers even appeals to you.

Because one thing is clear: Airchat really wants its users to be active. It’s not a built on the consumption model. Like Reddit, the fun in Airchat is that you can quickly hop into a random conversation. Unlike Reddit, you’ll do it via your voice, and not text. The question remains whether enough people will want to do that, and whether Airchat can escape the fate of so many other would-be social networks that have come (and gone) before.