Friday, March 05, 2010

Beware of Chat Roulette!

If you haven't heard of it yet, you will.

The latest internet craze is a program called Chat Roulette, which pairs you with a random video-chat partner. People who've used Skype to have webcam conversations online, but couldn't recruit enough of their friends and family to join them, have latched on to this so that they can at least enjoy the webcamming experience with strangers.

Sounds simple enough. The only problem is that in the short time that Chat Roulette has gained in popularity, it's already become a cesspool for nude exhibitions, sexual predation, and general depravity.

If you're reading this, you should not let your kids ever get on Chat Roulette! For adults, it is not safe for work!

That said, the site is fast acquiring a reputation for being addictive in a more humorous way. As Fast Company describes, "things start tripping into psychedelic performance-art territory... It's the Internet. UNFILTERED. The big lure is basically seeing something strange - or doing something so strange that you blow your partner's mind."

Some examples cited... You might see people in horrifying masks dancing around. Chinese users seem to love virtual high fives. One person's shtick is a puppet who makes like a caring psychotherapist and will sit with you for hours. You might start by eating a page of your favorite book. You might end by calling your mother and screaming that you're being murdered.

Naturally, the site was created by a 17-year-old Russian kid named Andrey Ternovskiy. CNN recently interviewed him trying to ascertain to what extent he was trying to create a playground for sexual predators, but he managed to come off as surprisingly well-intentioned.

I created this project for fun. Initially, I had no business goals with it. I created this project recently. I was and still am a teenager myself, that is why I had a certain feeling of what other teenagers would want to see on the Internet. I myself enjoyed talking to friends with Skype using a microphone and webcam. But we got tired of talking to each other eventually. So I decided to create a little site for me and my friends where we could connect randomly with other people.

Just to stick it to all of our parents, the idea of talking to strangers has officially gone mainstream. I think of this as a system of sanctioned prank-calling, where the recipients answer in the hopes of getting pranked in a funny, novel way. Admit it, even with all of the inherent dangers, you're curious.

Just keep the kids away.


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