Tech

Stadia’s loss is Clubhouse’s gain: the social audio company has poached a longtime Google engineer

Clubhouse has hired Justin Uberti, creator of the WebRTC standard and the Google Duo video chat app. He leaves Google after nearly 15 years at the company, where he was most recently the engineering lead for Google’s Stadia cloud gaming service and led the team that made the Stadia iOS web app.

“Justin is a phenomenal engineering leader and one of the original inventors of WebRTC, on top of which Clubhouse is built,” Clubhouse co-founder and CTO Rohan Seth said in a statement. “There’s so much that goes into crafting a fantastic audio experience — the quality, the latency, the ability to use spatial distance when multiple speakers are talking. This will be a critical area of investment for us as we open Clubhouse to the whole world, and among other things, Justin will be helping lead that effort.”

Uberti’s title will be head of streaming technology, a Clubhouse spokesperson told The Verge.

“I’m really optimistic about the potential [of Clubhouse]: everyone in the world knows how to use voice, it’s such an expressive medium (compared to text), and advancements like AirPods are making it easier to consume audio,” Uberti said at the end of a Twitter thread discussing the move.

WebRTC is an open-source project that lets developers add real-time communication (RTC) features to applications, and it works on modern browsers and is supported within many native apps. The fact that Discord can instantly drop you into a voice chat in a browser? WebRTC helps power that. And if you’ve used Clubhouse, you’ve probably experienced how easy it is to jump in and out of audio rooms on the fly — that’s also powered by WebRTC. (Uberti commended Clubhouse as a “great example” of a novel RTC use-case.)

As Clubhouse looks to compete with social audio products from bigger companies like Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and even Microsoft’s LinkedIn, hiring the creator of a key technology backing its app could give Clubhouse an advantage in an increasingly crowded field.

In addition to Stadia and Duo, Uberti also had a key role in the development of Google Hangouts Video and was the chief architect for AOL Instant Messenger, according to his LinkedIn.


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