ChatRoulette.com is the latest fad in social networking Web sites
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Trollers of the Internet, you have been looking for the next big thing. Facebook bores you. Twitter is too frenetic. For months you have been wanting something different -- a way to connect with people online that will both stir your heart and turn your stomach, that will launch a thousand privacy debates and discussions over just what our society is coming to.
The good news is that this thing has arrived. The bad news is that you may have already missed the best of it.
We are talking about ChatRoulette.com, a webcam-linking social network based on the theory that profound human connection happens by the luck of the draw. Log on to the site, click "Play," and you are immediately matched with another anonymous chatter from somewhere on the globe,watching them as they watch you. Intrigued? Strike up a conversation. Not? Click "Next," and connect with someone else.
The experience is either an unbridled realization of the Internet's awesome randomness, or a compilation tape of its greatest hits: Omegle meets Hot or Not meets Match.com, plus a liberal dose of shame. After all, if someone on an online dating site finds your profile picture unattractive, at least you don't have to witness them ignore it. On ChatRoulette, visitors can watch as their chat partners appraise, then dismiss them with a cool, clinical "Next."
Let's make a visit.
* * *
ME: What's your right arm doing?
STRANGER: Got a bone in my hand.
ME: A chicken bone? A human femur?
Then my chat partner, a doughy 40-something, lowers his outstretched arm, which had been out of his webcam's range, to reveal a giant knobby thing that looks like it belongs in a museum.