I had seen screenshots of Chatroulette on Reddit threads, but didn’t know what it referred to until this New York Times Bits Blog post, where they track down the once-anonymous creator. It’s basically a service that allows anyone in the world to find a random person to video chat with. Not surprisingly, it’s been trolled by a number of penis shots…which is a stark contrast to the niceness of the creator, a Russian 17-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy.
Ternovskly, who says he’s been programming since age 11, created the site because he and his friends got tired of just chatting with each other. Despite a massive surge in popularity, Ternovskly has only allowed four simple text ads along the bottom, which pays the bandwidth bill (a max throughput of 7GBs a second).
I think it’s cool that such a simple concept can be useful for so many people. Although some people are using the site in not very nice ways – I am really against it. Others do really unbelievable things I could never think of. They make up songs about strangers and sing to them, draw them, listen to music, broadcast them their own music. Two groups of teenagers can party together. That’s just great in my opinion. I am glad that I made this project and it is a pleasure for me to work on it.
He’s apparently too young to be corrupted by the profit-motive (how long will that last?). That a 17-year-old could so wisely execute what should’ve been an obvious idea is both inspiring and a little humbling to us 20+ year olds. Then again, those Russians do have a knack for invention at an early age; Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, was 21 when he started on his first sub-machine gun design. Chatroulette is pretty much an AK-47 of a Internet service…cheap, bare-bones, beautiful in execution, and prone to terrible, terrible misuse.
And speaking of age…I always felt smug being young enough to “get” MySpace and Facebook while the thirty-year-olds and older were all perplexed by it. I think Chatroulette is the Internet trend that makes me feel like the old man out.