Whether this is an error similar to last month’s Rick Roll takedown or an evil conspiracy masterminded by a team of loyal Ben Folds fans is unclear — currently, we’re waiting on comment from YouTube. My guess, though, is that the former is more likely than the latter.
UPDATE: Merton has reposted the video to his YouTube account, saying in the description: “This is a new, edited version of the original Video #1. I had to make some changes in order for YouTube to be happy with it.” The issue appears to have had something to do with Merton not getting approval to use the images of those he chatted with: Two of the people to whom he sings have now been blurred out. A YouTube spokesperson commented via email that “If a video violates our Community Guidelines or we receive a privacy complaint from a user who appears in the video, we act quickly to remove it.” (H/T to Alex in the comments for pointing out the new version of the video.)
In the meantime, though, you can check out Ben Folds’ response, created last Saturday during a concert in Charlotte, NC — entitled Ode to Merton, the video embedded below is a perfect imitation of Merton’s own imitation of Folds, with the addition of two thousand cheering fans and a new crew of Chat Roulette users. The effect they have on Chat Roulette users remains the same, though — lonely people sitting by themselves online are quickly goaded into smiling by the music and the performer’s good cheer.
The Piano Improv concept probably isn’t much more than a one-off viral hit, but the overall concept is a clever application of creativity to a new web service — one that we might consider not writing off as just a home for erection-waving. At SXSW Interactive last week, a panel organized by the agency Digitas brought together six new media producers and independent filmmakers to pitch Miller Lite ideas for a branded commercial with online elements.
The audience favorite award (and $8,000) went to Greg Goodfried of EQAL, who pitched Miller Lite on a fairly traditional beer commercial with a social media twist — via a misunderstanding, a young man in Paris goes looking for a girl he met on Chat Roulette (when in reality, she was sitting at a cafe with a similar name), and viewers are encouraged to go on Chat Roulette themselves to tell the young man where the girl really is — with the first one to find him winning two tickets to Paris.
Goodfried’s pitch triggered more than a few thoughts about the potential applications of Chat Roulette beyond its current status as a forum for perverts. After all, many wrote off Twitter during the early years as just another means for oversharing online — but not only has it evolved as a community and communication means, events like the protests over last year’s Iran elections have proved the value of fast, mobile text communication. There may be more to Chat Roulette than just the penises, is my point — experiments like improvised serenading might just be the beginning.
Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): Case Study: 1 vs. 100 Live’s Glimpse of the Future