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Chatroulette is the new fad amongst teenagers and internet people around the world. Created in November, the site was founded as a way for a small group of friends in Moscow to communicate, but has grown to host 20,000+ users per day (there are 29,364 as I write this). Chatroulette has gone viral within the past few weeks, making its way to the New York Times and Good Morning America, after having only existed for four months. Many people have commented and blogged about the anonymous chat service, almost unanimously agreeing that the site is not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, some individuals see the potential in the new social media outlet as one of the next steps in online communication.

Tim Walker from The Independent described Chatroulette as “some bastard child of Skype and Stumbleupon,” citing the face-to-face communication and randomness of the interactions. And that’s probably one of the best ways to describe the site. The Week put together a little FAQ about the service, agreeing with Michael Wolff, that “Surveying the 16-year commercial history of the Internet, it might fairly be that [Chatroulette] is what [the internet boils] down to.” His synopsis: 90% men, 10% women, and lots of penis/masturbation/sexually explicit demands. But as Sam Anderson put it, there’s a lot to be learned about the human condition from the random encounters.

Like Anderson, Good Morning America was “obsessed” with the service and found the interaction between users to be a very fascinating tool for many purposes. Anderson said that it took him back to his middle-school days, after being harassed and tormented by many users because of his age and looks. Yet, there’s a certain dynamic to the service to which users get accustomed over time. During the Good Morning America show, a writer from Gizmodo summed it up as an entire relationship condensed down to a matter of seconds: you meet a person, make a judgment about them, have some communication and then relationship is over. From the same show, Becky Worley said that instead of spending their time browsing the web, Chatroulette users are browsing people. Other users have commented on how users are spending their time trying to connect with others, even if that means a complete stranger for a few seconds. Whether we want to admit it or not, Chatroulette speaks volumes about loneliness in our society, despite the networks and supposed connectedness we have through social media.

When interviewed by the New York Times, founder Andrey Ternovskiy said that “some think it is a game, others think it is a whole unknown world, others think it is a dating service. [Some people] do really unbelievable things I could never think of. They make up songs about strangers and sing to them, draw them, listen to music, [and] broadcast them their own music.” At the moment, Chatroulette works in complete chaos, totally abandoning any semblance of order, found on other social networking sites. So is there any potential for the lawless chat service?

The Guardian‘s Bobbie Johnson writes that Chatroulette could be the next evolution of social media. He notes that we see our social media spheres as a very public and very engrossed form of communication, connecting people throughout the world; truly though, we spend our time on the same few sites with the same groups of people without actually branching out. Chatroulette does take the idea to the opposite extreme, but with some changes, could help evolve our social media outlets. Sam Anderson discussed how adding filters for topic, location, age, etc. would drastically change Chatroulette and amp up its possibilities. Currently compared to old AOL chat rooms, having any sort of filters could rid the site of its bad rap. And its reputation is for good reason – the internet is already anonymous enough as it is. Having Chatroulette’s added layer of practically complete anonymity means that people are going to abuse the service for whatever reason. Not that it needs to add profiles or connect to other outlets, but as is, I personally don’t foresee it as much more than a cure for boredom.

Having said that, last month Dana Goldstein blogged about her experience on Chatroulette with the Jonas Brothers. They explained that they were reaching out to fans for PR. The Jonas Brothers bring up an interesting point which businesses could utilize to their advantage. Because the service is free, any company could use it as a sort of viral marketing scheme or could reach customers individually by creating a personalized advertisement. The downside for PR is the fact that it would be almost impossible to reach actual customers, unless it was a universally known and used product or service. Even the Jonas Brothers probably went through tons of people before running into someone who knew them, or more important, was a fan. But if paired up with the right people, a company might find themselves in the limelight through other outlets.

Barring any future changes, do you think Chatroulette will continue to grow as virally as it has? Or will it die off quickly like most other internet phenomenon? If the site is improved, what potential could it have for PR or communication in general? And what improvements might solidify Chatroulette as anything outside a boredom buster? I would love to hear thoughts from someone who has used the random chat for their own entertainment.

*NSFW* For your entertainment, here are some additional sites showing the range of users seen on Chatroulette.com

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4 Comments

  1. Chatroulette may be the epitome of the ultimate summation of what the internet is all about. I n ever thought I’d see so many naked, hairy, dudes. However, my friend sent me a screenshot of his video chat and it’s finding people like this (Link ) that make the site so much fun.

  2. I have a very negative opinion of ChatRoulette so far but that is just because my experience with it has been on the complete extreme negative side of the spectrum, and it definitely is way to male populated. However I do agree that there could be some potential for excellent mini campaigns, filters are going to definitely added to make sure that people are connecting more accurately with people that can benefit from the interaction, the current chaos is nothing but fun and games. With some minor tweaking I think ChatRoulette has the possibility to open up a whole new world of marketing and pr opportunities for getting even closer with the consumers.

  3. chatoulette so much a new trend youtube facebook social networking sites a great alternative

    chatroulette to meet people from every country, and presents a platform for a variety of different people and groups with new people all the time diversity cikabilmekte.Bu out and sharing these innovations chatroulette’in unofficial blogs (http://chatrulette.blogspot.com/ etc.) can be followed ./12.01.2011 12:29:15

  4. I am really enjoying chatroulette and omegle at the moment but i am getting fed up of all the gay masturbating men on there. I much prefer to chat to women on there because im strait and most men on there are all perverts. Does anyone know any websites which are similar but seem to have less masturbators and more girls on them?


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