The Appeal of Chatroulette

by Ian Rosenwach on 2.14.2010

I first heard about Chatroulette in New York Magazine.  Yesterday the New York Times got the founder, Andrey Ternovskiy, to talk about the site.  He’s a kid having fun.  Fred Wilson wants to meet him.

Chatroulette may not be here to stay, but it means something and point to how to attract users on the web.

What’s the appeal?

My .02 – it’s no frills, simple design.  I won’t go into how the site makes the world smaller, unites humanity, creates cheap thrills for it’s users, etc.  The site is just very easy to use and not dressed up like it’s going to the prom.  It’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt and is asking you if you want to hang out.  Many people, especially in this demographic, trust a site that isn’t pretentious. In the New York Times, founder Ternovskiy says “I also love minimalism”.  It shows.

Video creates a stronger interaction than text.  Combine the appeal of these connections, a simple design, and a small user base and you’ve got something interesting.

Compare it to craigslist, Google, or a host of other sites where a big part of success is their minimalist design.

Chatroulette vs. Facebook vs. Skype

The most popular social network for this demographic is probably Facebook, and for video chat Skype.   How’s Chatroulette different?

  • Chatroulette is for creating new connections – Skype and Facebook are for making existing connections more accessible
  • Chatroulette is anonymous.  Take on any role and run with it.
  • Chatroulette is uncensored.  There is no filter, pure human expression – the good, the bad, and the ugly (and the very very ugly)

And I’m sure there’s many more.

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For many, the hardest part of meeting people is approaching them and coming face to face with them for the first time.  Chatroulette forces the conversation, and it’s jarring.  If you want to get started, go here, hit play, and give the site access to your webcam.  Good luck.

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