A friend passed along a news story that speculated whether or not Ashton Kutcher would be able to promote Chatroulette (possibly not suitable/safe for work (aka NSFW) – I’ll explain below), the latest video craze in social networking, in the same way that he had for Twitter. It is pretty well known that Ashton is the “King” of Twitter. With nearly four million followers, what he says gets a lot of attention, and websites he promotes, in turn, get a lot of traffic. Always wanting to stay ahead of the trends, I was immediately drawn to the article. It explained that Chatroulette was a p2p video chat conference, complete with chat windows, except the person you are speaking to is picked at random, from others who are logged in to the system. The interface itself is pretty basic. Everything is very self explanatory.
Simply go to the website, and you will see the above window. Once you hit play, you are instantly given a video, you on the bottom, and your chat counterpart on the top. If you don’t like what you see simply hit next, and Chatroulette will randomly select a new participant. You can utilize audio, for those who are capable, as well as chat (by typing) in the window on the right.
The New York Times reports that the site was created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow. His vision, was to create a site that was totally random, hence why the name contains roulette. And as I discovered, random is pretty much what you will get.
Within the first 5 minutes, I had talked to someone from Chile, a handful of people from the Midwest, was an audience for three different guitar players, had someone sketch me, met R2D2, and a very curious dog who was animated somehow, and apparently is a huge character on Chatroulette.
In addition to that however, and why I labeled the Chatroulette link NSFW, is because there are no moderators on the site. What you see is what you get, and you don’t really have a choice, because your video chat partners are chosen at random. This is the reason that there has been such uproar about the site. Concerned groups and parents are pointing out one of Chatroulette’s failings; adult content. This occurs on other social networking sites as well, but you have to go searching for it to find it. On Chatroulette, however, it can pop up at random.
So, will Chatroulette become the next big social networking tool? I don’t think so. You could utilize it for viral marketing, but you really never know who you are going to talk to next. If you create some sort of pitch, a) you don’t know who you are talking to, and b) you have no assurance that they are going to talk to you long enough for you to advertise.
Overall, the site is fun, but you never know what you’re going to get. I found it to lack structure; I think I would prefer categories, or something of that nature. But again, the point of the site, and why it is roulette, is because you never know who will come up next. So, I don’t’ see that changing. But if you have time to waste, Chatroulette is an excellent experiment in sociology, and fun “people watching.”