BY CARLYN LOUTOS
Everyone has been buzzing about Chatroulette, the online website that pairs complete strangers from all around the world together through webcam, audio, and text-based conversations.
The site, coined from the term Russian roulette, due to its similarity that it is comparable to playing a game of chance, is fascinating and addicting to those who have visited the site because they experience an excitement of not knowing who you will be paired up with.
“It genuinely is a retreat from yourself,” says Ryan Perez, 19, a student at University of Central Florida. “It gives you an escape from reality where you may be whoever you choose to be, and I go on it to leave the pressures of school, work, and life behind for a little while.”
The site is estimated to have among 30 thousand to 40 thousand users daily, and attracts a high percentage of male users — 89%. It was created by Andrey Ternovsky, a 17-year-old high school student from Russia, whose idea came from video chats he shared with his friends on Skype.
Chatroulette does not conform to any race, gender, age, occupation or social status. It allows anyone to assume any identity. The site can be used to make a casual or romantic connection. The site is also inappropriately used by men and women alike for sexual purposes, which are banned, but difficult to regulate. Some people do go on the site seeking out sexual partners, which has made the site well-known for its uncontrolled nudity.
Some use the site for simply entertainment purposes: to sing, dance, wear silly outfits, tell stories, jokes, and scare people. It lets people be able to make a fool out of themselves and do things without feeling embarrassed, because the performer does not know the audience and will likely never see that person again.
“Chatroulette is different from other sites, it not the same boring, monotonous thing”, says Riha Wadhwa, 18, student at University of Central Florida. “You will always come away with something different, some hilarious story that you cannot even believe happened.”
People interact through webcam, audio, or text-based chats; they can be used together or separately. Registration is free, but users must sign up with an email account. That helps the site to better monitor inappropriate use, mainly uncontrolled sexual behavior. Users can report someone they feel is using the site in an inappropriate manner, and if a user gets three reports, he or she is suspended for an indefinite amount of time.
Users can also control their online experience using the “Next” button. It lets the users skip a person for whatever reason, whenever they please.
“The next feature is my favorite,” says Allison Orr, 18, a student at Florida State University. “It allows you to erase something unpleasant, such as older men, nudity and genuinely odd people, and it gives you all the control and power.”
“I always find myself coming back to the site because it is entertaining, strange, and unusual and that is the appeal of it,” says Wadhwa.