Chatroulette – Shock and Awe or Shockingly Awful?

Chatroulette – Shock and Awe or Shockingly Awful?

After hearing about this supposed “next big thing” called Chatroulette on the radio the other morning, I had to check it out for myself.  Chatroulette is a brand new service for one-on-one text-, webcam- and microphone-based chat with people around the world.  The site was created just a few months ago by Russian teenager, Andrey Ternovskiy.  A recent New York Times article calls it surreal, unnerving, and distasteful, yet, at the same time, enthralling.

Though not brave enough to try the latest fad myself, it’s not hard to gather what happens.  Essentially, you’re thrown into a game in which the site scans the thousands of newcomers joining each day for you to chat with.  Don’t like your result?  Just hit next and you move on to the next stranger.  Don’t worry though, you won’t be chatting by just going to the URL, you have to first click “play.”

The user interface (UI) is quite simple with just a chat box and a video screen for yourself and your partner with boxes that appear as you scroll over, allowing you to select if you would like to receive video or not.  You can see in the top right hand corner that when I went to the site, there were already some 20,000 people using it at that moment all over the world.

While this may be an interesting way for people to generate conversations out of thin air, I can’t help but think that many users are in it for the “shock and awe” factor, especially with several sources saying “nudity is hard to avoid.”  So, with that in mind, perhaps it’s just shockingly awful.  And while inappropriate usage is specifically not tolerated, as outlined in Chatroulette’s terms of service (below), one has to wonder how much good that one bullet point actually does.  Additionally, with many Chatroulette episodes now being broadcast on YouTube, does this raise greater privacy concerns?  …but what is privacy these days anyway, besides harder and harder to protect and maintain?

Terms of Service:

  • You have to be at least 16 years old to use our service
  • Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service
  • Please use “Report inappropriate video” link to notify us about inappropriate content and we will take necessary steps
  • Everything supplied by the user you are connected with is not property of Chatroulette, and therefore Chatroulette is not responsible for what you will find.
  • By using Chatroulette you agree to our Terms of Service.

It will be interesting to see how this grows, evolves, or dies over the next few weeks, months, years… but for now, if you’re brave enough, play the game and let me know how you fair.


2 thoughts on “Chatroulette – Shock and Awe or Shockingly Awful?

  1. The terms of service are pointless – according to this article (link below) this site is run by a 17yo from Russia, who does not have the resources to even track violations, much less do anything about them. ChatRoulette is the wild west of the Internet; go on at your own risk.

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