Chatroulette is an online activity which brings together two random people face to face via webcam. It derives its name from Russian roulette which is a game of chance. In chatroulette, the “players” never know who they’re going to meet online next, which is part of the allure and addictiveness of chatroulette.
According to comScore, more than 4 million people accessed the website of chatroulette in February 2016 alone. And that number is growing daily. But is chatroulette just the latest internet fad or a service that provides some value to its users?
Chatroulette History and Growth
The website was developed in November 2009 by a 17 year old Russian student, Andrey Ternovskiy who wanted to chat with interesting people using Skype-like video and audio. He coded chatroulette in 2 days and within a month the site had a few hundred visitors without any marketing whatsoever. By January 2010 it had 944,000 visitors and in February 2010, just 3 months after its launch, it drew in 3.9 million unique visitors. Today approximately 500,000 people access the site on a daily basis. These numbers put chatroulette firmly on the map of the latest trend to strike the internet.
Chatroulette Playing Interface
Chatroulette’s user interface is simple, even sparse. Visitors who access chatroulette don’t require a login or any other kind of verification. Once they’re on the site, the service prompts them to enable their webcam. Once their webcam is enabled, the user is able to see other users of the service in a completely random order. If the user doesn’t like what is being shown on their partner’s web stream, they simply click “Next” and move on to another chat partner. This phenomenon is called “being nexted”.
The lure of chatroulette is the same as the lure of gambling – to see what the next roll of dice will bring, or in chatroulette’s case, who it will bring. Part of chatroulette’s attraction is to see who else is using the site and what they’re doing. Participants often try to outdo each other in an attempt to see who can be the most entertaining personality on the Web and avoid getting “nexted” the longest. Another lure is the chance to peek into a complete stranger’s life and see what happens. The thrill of the unknown and the unpredictable are a huge factor in chatroulette’s success and addictiveness.
Chatroulette has been criticized as being a haven for perverts and depraved people due to its incentive for voyeurism. One study describes the chatroulette demographic as 89% male, 9% female, and 13% perverts. Parents should be advised that if their child is using chatroulette they have a good chance of coming across inappropriate content.
Is chatroulette a passing fad or can it be used for more useful pursuits, like social networking or dating? Even terminologies about it differ – some call it a game, some a service, while others dub it a cultural phenomenon. Only time will tell if this website will evolve or fade out, but experts agree that the service will explore future benefits that may be extracted from it. One thing’s for sure – chatroulette is not for the faint of heart!