In the late 90′s Microsoft released a series of public directory servers for their Net Meeting client. It was an interesting process for people to log in and make themselves available for a calls and chats. The chaos and randomness of it all was strangely alluring, but ultimately untenable as most people didn’t want random strangers calling them especially women who would suddenly get a call from some naked guy.
So it when I heard of chatroulette.com I had to see what the hype was about. For me, it’s about rejection and feeling a little bit dirtier then when you started. It’s fun, to an extent. Randomly seeing these faces from all over the place for a split second only to have them disconnect, I feel like I’ve been shot down based solely on the video of me sitting on my couch (not a pretty site, but not repelling). And the things I saw were intereting to say the least, some making me feel a bit dirty. Most of the connections were to men alone, followed by groups of people presumably checking the site out. About 10% were to by themselves women. And then there were the strange ones, where they would be doing anything from playing music and telling you to cheer up to videos of guys that made me quickly change the feed. I had one interesting connection where the other side had rigged it to send my video back with a derogitory comment at the bottom, then switch to a room full of guys laughing. I had to give them a thumbs up for creativity. But mostly it’s individual men looking to find that one woman out there willing to chat with them (though I’m sure some were drawn in by the hype like myself). It was so much like the Net Meeting directories it was scary.
My prediction is that this is just another meme. It will die off once the media loses interest and the “normals” go back to to IM/Facebook scene. Then you’ll be left with what you had in the late 90′s NetMeeting direcotiers, a bunch of desparet men (and occasional woman) looking for a connection of some sort.
It’s a brilliant idea and I give kudos to the 17 y/o Russian kid who came up with it. He could make a small fortune off of the site by putting ads up, but that doesn’t seem to be his plan. Instead he just seems to want to let the site run. And isn’t that part of the fun of the Internet: anyone can build anything to see how it works.