February 18, 2010|
Chat Roulette is a fascinating and bizarre new website that enables visitors to randomly chat with strangers around the world via webcam. The concept for the site is dead simple – you visit the homepage, click Play, and all of sudden you are dumped into a one on one conversation with a random stranger. If you are horrified by or bored with your chat partner, you simply click Stop and move on to the next person.
Recently, Chat Roulette has hit the big time, with usage skyrocketing and mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post devoting ink to the site, which launched in November. I’ve used Chat Roulette a few times now myself, mostly as an experiment, and like everyone else I’m equal parts fascinated and horrified. While Chat Roulette supposedly bans pornography, you will undoubtedly come across some nudity if you use the site long enough. You’ll also run into some fringe societal elements, and have great conversations with some interesting people you would never come across otherwise.
The power here is in the randomness of it, and in the connections you can make. Every time you switch to a new chat partner it is like opening a present. It may be a horrible present, but it’s still fun to open and see what is there. In a world where sites like Facebook and LinkedIn force us to build networks and define our relationships, there is a real power in a site like Chat Roulette that allows you to experience life outside your sphere.
I also think it is inevitable that the chat roulette concept will be appropriated. Why not start a Chat Roulette that connects people around common interests instead of being entirely random? Maybe cat lovers? Why not build functionality into your website that allows visitors to enter into random chats with other people visiting the same site at the same time? There seem to be lots of possibilities to me, and it seems like the concept, if not the Chat Roulette site itself, could be one of the Internet’s next big things.
I could be wrong. Chat Roulette could be a one hit wonder that fades away after the novelty wears off. But to me it looks like the creators have happened on a very powerful and useful way for people to connect with each other, which is ultimately what the Internet is all about.