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Summary:

A new site called ChatRoulette has been getting a lot of attention lately because it features live video chatting with random strangers, with predictable results. But among those interested in the site is venture investor Fred Wilson, who has invited the founder to New York.

A new web chat service called ChatRoulette has been getting a lot of attention of late, in part because it’s about as raw and unfiltered a form of social media possible: not just chat with random strangers (something that Twitter and other tools also allow), but video chat with random strangers. The addition of video — not surprisingly — brings out the exhibitionist tendencies in some people and the voyeuristic tendencies in others, and ChatRoulette subjects its users to plenty of both. As Ivor Tossell of the Globe and Mail described it in a recent column: “Naked guy. Click. Naked guy. Click. Naked guy.”

If nothing else, this raw and unfiltered experience has gotten ChatRoulette plenty of attention — and not just from the media, but from one of the web’s best-known investors, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. Given the fuss that people have been making about the site, its probably not surprising that people would start trying to track down the founder, and the New York Times finally managed to do just that. The paper did an email interview on Friday with the 17-year-old Russian who created ChatRoulette, Andrey Ternovskiy, who talked about setting the site up for fun and how his parents had helped fund it (we can only assume that his parents have never used their son’s site.)

In the wake of that interview, Wilson wrote a blog post saying he was interested in the site and was planning to invite the founder to come to New York, and that he was considering investing in ChatRoulette:

I think we’ll reach out to Andrey and offer him a visit to NYC. I’m still not sure if this is something we should invest it, but I’d sure like to meet this guy. He reminds me of many great young entrepreneurs we’ve worked with and his story sounds so familiar.

In a response to a comment from someone who describes ChatRoulette as “not investable” because of the random adult content, however, Wilson says he agrees, but that he still wants to talk to the young man who started it about his ideas. In another comment, he says:

CR already has more users than delicious, foursquare, tumblr, and a number of other investments we’ve made had when we made them…of course that doesn’t mean we can or should invest. i’m concerned that the use case for the most part today is online freak shows and that doesn’t seem like a sustainable or monetizable proposition.

Wilson isn’t the only one who finds ChatRoulette fascinating. New York magazine has also written about the bizarre glimpses of humanity it provides, and so has Bobbie Johnson at The Guardian. Anil Dash, formerly of Six Apart, used the site as one example in a post about the power of the audience and of shared experience. Not everyone is interested in investing in the site, however: Brad Feld, one of the co-founders of Foundry Group, didn’t seem all that attracted to the idea in a tweet he posted on Sunday. But if nothing else, Ternovskiy has managed to pique Wilson’s interest, and will probably get an interview with every web-connected VC in the U.S. if he wants one.

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user John Wardell

  1. amazing, for me it was always a problem to get web cam conversation, while anyone wanded to use text based chat with me.
    now you can finally take your laptop cam on a drive

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  2. How is this different from Yahoo chatrooms from 6-7 years back ? Yahoo messenger had video chat support and most users on those chatrooms were ok with random video chat buddies.

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  3. This guy is a genius. He really unveils how bored, unimaginative, and pathetic most of the people using ChatRoulette really are:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIyT7JzoO7w

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  4. @Sharninder – if you used the service I’m sure you’re notice the difference. It’s random, one after another video, from people all over the the world. Quite different from Yahoo chatroom

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  5. @sharninder – and going back even further in time, the original “collegeclub.com” which predates friendster, myspace et al used to have a feature called “the hive” which did exactly what ChatRT does

    at any rate, my older son and his friends love it – and it is currently more popular than FB at most high schools, particularly with boys looking for naked or semi-nude girls – and unfortunately, the collective guesstimate is that hte site is roughly 90+ percent male, about 15 to 25, with a batch of freaks and pedophiles – my son and his friend grabbed a few screen caps of strange old guys – and this does not include the fact that they’re collective guesstimate (again, this is a group of roughly eight 10th grade boys i surveyed) that nearly one in five or one in ten cams are of a male masturbating

    an opportunity to scale or do something more interesting???? NO WAY…but an opportunity for facebook to launch this as a feature for users within their own safe networks? absolutely! gmail already has the vid chat feature set, would also like to see it made more visible and highlighted – like group together ‘all online’ – and perhaps big co’s like google and facebook could allow for simple adult content filtering (and some basic level of moderation and reporting on violators – because honestly, are you gonna strip down for all of your facebook friends?)

    btw, if you want the screen cap of my son and his friend being ‘approached’ by the strange older guy, just let me know – it will make you laugh out loud while creeping you out at the very same time…

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  6. [...] this post on Gigaoam about a 17 year old Russian who started a video chat site called ChatRoulette.com. It is video chat [...]

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  7. Chatroulette is so freeking funny :)

    a bunch of other screens here:
    http://www.bestofchatroulette.net

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  8. This link is an error sry, the real link is => http://www.bestofchatroulette.com/

    enjoy ;)

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  9. [...] users, attracting interest from some (including Union Square Ventures investor Fred Wilson, who offered to fly the founder to New York for an interview and suggested he might invest) and revulsion from [...]

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  10. [...] users, attracting interest from some (including Union Square Ventures investor Fred Wilson, who offered to fly the founder to New York for an interview and suggested he might invest) and revulsion from [...]

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