It took a 17-year-old student from Moscow to put the idea into existence and now an estimated 500,000 visitors head over to Chatroulette each and every day to experience the world of haphazard webcam chatting.
What would possess a person to want to take part in an “online stranger chat?” Whatever the reason, Chatroulette is already a web phenomenon. Celebrities claim to have used the site, with a few unverified sightings of Jessica Alba and Paris Hilton making the rounds. Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, and Kelly Osborne are among the celebs claiming to have used the site, too.
The basic premise of Chatroulette is, for the uninitiated, relatively simple. The site uses Flash to display video and access user webcams. Users are then tossed into random one-on-one conversations and, while “pornographic behaviour” is outlawed by the site, pretty much anything goes. A host of sites and Facebook groups exist to discuss and share the strangest of the strange from Chatroulette.
As one enamoured with the strangest of the strange myself, I decided to hook up my ridiculously old webcam to take to the adventure that is Chatroulette. Ensuring that I had actually shaved for a change, I put my pants back on and hopped aboard.
Getting started on Chatroulette is simply a matter of making sure everything is properly hooked up and clicking the “New Game” button. Before I could say “old man’s penis,” I was whisked off into the wonderful world of Chatroulette.
One of the first things to realize is that it’s easy to take being “nexted” personally – at first. The feature of Chatroulette that is most popular is that of the blessed “Next” button. Users can “next” their chat partners immediately and be set up with a fresh victim, er, partner with the simple click of a button or the simple press of the F9 key.
In my maiden voyage on Chatroulette, I found myself being “nexted” about a dozen times before I met up with someone I actually spoke with. In the passing faces and body parts, I noticed an assortment of male genitals and Eastern European facial features. I also noticed plenty of blank screens.
Had I been prepared to screenshot some of the more compelling faces, I would have been able to capture what looked like a Bob Dylan impersonator smoking a cigarette and holding a pet rabbit. Alas, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.