Chatroulette – a gamble too far?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2010 in online strategy | No Comments

So you spin the wheel, land in someone’s home and decide whether or not you like the look of them based on their webcam. It’s brutal. You literally never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Sometimes it’s easy – you see something you wouldn’t even see in a biology lesson and you click F9. NEXT!
Other times you’re taking a second or two to check out the person’s face and CUT! – they’ve already moved on from you. That’s a bit insulting, to be honest. It leaves me feeling mildly curious about why I was barely spared a glance. Luckily it’s a speedy little game and your attention is quickly diverted to the next image.
If you’re fortunate you’ll land on a fairly normal-looking person who’ll stick around long enough to type “hi” in the text box. But then the pressure’s on to be witty from the get-go, instantly charming and endlessly fascinating. At any second the conversation could be terminated by your new 2D pal and a man with no pants could suddenly appear. You snooze you lose.
Like any gamble, sometimes it pays off.

Celebs are rumoured to dally in it – I saw this screengrab of incredulous teens and Perez Hilton – and you might end up being properly entertained. YouTube has some hilarious videos of people’s reactions to what they stumble across – like Lady Gaga’s doppelganger or this super-talented pianist.
You might even – gasp – have a conversation with someone pretty cool, learn something or just enjoy a random chat. Chatroulette has been likened to “a walk through Times Square thirty years ago”.
It is a painfully honest form of social media – what you see is what you get. It’s also a whistlestop tour of a very young network which may – like Facebook – develop its own possibilities the more people use it. But is it useful right now? If you want to create a viral campaign based on consumer reaction or a Willy Wonka-style, land on the lucky line promotion – then yes, possibly. But mostly it’s a bit of fun, with an edge created by the very real risk your innocent eyes may be assaulted. A gamble too far? That depends where you draw the line. Just beware – like all gambling it has the potential to become addictive.


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