By: Steve Retka
Imagine how many times you’ve changed the channel on your TV after 2 or 3 seconds, or how often you’ve hit the shuffle button on your iPod less than 5 notes into a song.
That’s the essence of ChatRoulette: the website pairs you with a random videochat partner. You can stay with who you’re paired with, or click “next” to be reconnected with another random person. There are no filters, no censors and no recording or documentation...which means the site offers more than its fair share of nudity, sexual acts and other obscenities.
Almost every major news network has christened ChatRoulette as the next big thing on the Internet. And most of these networks, including Fox News, have called it a “predator’s paradise,” and one of the worst websites out there.
Sam Anderson of New York Magazine wrote a great article last month that really dove into both the good and bad that ChatRoulette has to offer, concluding that it may indeed be the future of social networking.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the stats. The website is just a couple of months old, and in November 2009 had less than 500 unique visitors. Granted, that number has spiked from the heavy media attention, jumping to roughly 63,000 in January and February.
To put that number in perspective, Twitter has 24 million visitors, while Facebook has 134 million. I could continue to give example after example of sites with more hits than ChatRoulette, seeing as how it’s ranked somewhere around 30,000 or so.
My point here is that CNN, Fox News and other media outlets will continue labeling ChatRoulette as a dangerous viral sensation, while the blogosphere and social media fans will continue to argue that it’s pioneering how we connect with people.
Is it shocking and intriguing? Sure. Does it have the potential to corrupt young people? Of course. Is it innovative and creative? Without a doubt. But instead of arguing back and forth about it’s impact, remember that’s just a website.
ChatRoulette has created a legal outlet for exhibitionism and free speech, and that of course means there will be those who take advantage of it. And whether you’re delighted or disgusted by ChatRoulette, keep in mind the one trump card of the online universe: you don’t have to use it.