New-age online forums like chatroulette.com – a new craze among college students – allow users to have conversations with complete strangers under complete anonymity.
Chatroulette allows users to stumble upon different people via video, audio or typed chat. If a user decides he or she doesn’t like his or her partner, he or she can replace him or her with someone else with the instant click of a button.
It sounds like an interesting concept – except there’s one problem: these sites have become a target of deceit and a haven for the weirdoes of the Internet. According to a study by techcrunch.com, which includes CEO and co-founder of RJMetrics Robert J. Moore, one in eight spins on Chatroulette turns up something “R rated,” summing up the wonders of things that come up randomly in the risky video chats.
Some users on Chatroulette aren’t even people, thanks to imaging services that let users stream fake videos and images instead of what’s actually in front of their webcam, the analysis says.
A video of the Jonas Brothers has been recently popular, fooling several young girls into thinking their dreams had come true. The study detailed more than 2,800 sessions and found that about only 11 percent of users are female.
And the result, techcrunch.com warns, is that most of the stuff is inappropriate video.
Even knowing this, I logged on hoping to connect with some fully clothed people and talk about their experience. Success, unfortunately, was minimal.
I sat in my living room with a white wall behind me and clicked the button hoping to see a person’s face. The first nine people that I stumbled on were male and all quickly skipped over me. Finally, someone stayed on the screen for more than five seconds.
It was my very first Chatroulette friend.
“Hey man, what’s going on?” I said to start the chat. But my partner quickly made an inappropriate gesture, then an inappropriate, misspelled remark via typed chat and clicked on his way. Ten minutes later, I was still having little success. I saw a female, but she skipped along, too.
Soon, I realized I needed to grab people’s attention.
First, I drew a small cartoon figure with a speech bubble that said, “Talk to me!”
Next, I had my roommate sit in front of the camera holding his guitar, ready to play. This finally encouraged one Chatroulette user to nod along to my roommate’s music for about 40 seconds before disappearing.
I turned to Fluffy, our pet snake, and tried wrapping her around my head to catch people’s attentions. It worked – but only once for a rare female who came up on the site – oddly enough – to do research for a paper she was writing.
Expecting to interview me, she skipped ahead when I became the one asking questions.
The next person to hesitate on the screen was a user in a Chewbacca Star Wars mask. He performed a flawless wookie impression, then waved goodbye and skipped me before I could even speak or capture a screenshot.
After a few more inappropriate encounters, I’d had enough “talking” with strangers.
Here were my results:
I went through roughly 30 chat sessions; three of the users were not fully dressed. There were only three who spoke. Two said only one word, and the solitary person I held an actual conversation with was doing the same exact thing as me.
If seeing male appendages and Star Wars masks is part of your agenda, then Chatroulette is the site for you. If not, I would highly recommend omegle.com, which offers a text only version of random chat.
Chatroulette’s number of users skyrocketed to 3.9 million in February, according to data from comScore.
While text chats with strangers can be fun and informative, that’s not the kind of crowd hanging around on Chatroulette.