Chatroulette is an online chat website that pairs random users together for webcam-based conversations. Visitors to the website begin an online chat (text, audio and video) with another visitor. At any point, either user may leave the current chat by initiating another random connection.
Overview The Chatroulette web site was created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow, Russia. Ternovskiy says the concept arose from video chats he used to have with friends on Skype, and that he wrote the first version of Chatroulette in "two days and two nights". Ternovskiy chose the name "Chatroulette" after watching The Deer Hunter, a 1978 film set in the Vietnam War in which prisoners of war are forced to play Russian roulette. The site pairs its users at random, and allows them to type messages to one another while watching the other user's webcam.
Ternovskiy built the site on an old computer he had in his bedroom. The site initially had 20 users and then it doubled daily for a period, according to Ternovskiy in 2010. He discusses that he did not advertise or post his site anywhere; in fact, people starting talking about the website and the word of mouth spread gradually. As the number of active users grew, Ternovskiy has had to rewrite the entire code to cope with the load, the management of which being the most challenging part of his project. Despite the expansion of the service, he still codes everything on his own. Ternovskiy sought help from his longtime friend Vlad Kostanyan, who helped him with his side projects.
In early November 2009, shortly after the site launched, it had 500 visitors per day. One month later there were 50,000. The site has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York magazine, and on Good Morning America, Newsnight in the United Kingdom, Tosh.0, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In February 2010, there were about 35,000 people on Chatroulette at any given time. Around the beginning of March, Ternovskiy estimated the site to have around 1.5 million users, approximately 33% of them from the United States and 5% from Germany.
An early growth phase was funded by a $10,000 investment from Ternovskiy's parents which he soon paid back. As of March 2010, Ternovskiy was running the site from his childhood bedroom, assisted by four programmers who were working remotely, and the site was supported through advertising links to an online dating service. The site uses several high-end servers all located in Frankfurt, Germany.
According to New York Times, the site is intensely addictive. One informal study published in March 2010 shows that nearly half of all Chatroulette "spins" connected a user with someone in the USA, while the next most likely country was France with 15%. On average, in sessions showing a single person 89% of these were male and 11% were female. 8% of spins showed multiple people behind the camera. 1 in 3 females appeared as such a group, and 1 in 12 males. A user was more likely to encounter a webcam featuring no person at all than one featuring a sole female. 1 in 8 spins yielded someone apparently naked, exposing themselves or engaging in a sexual act. A user was twice as likely to encounter a sign requesting female nudity than to encounter actual female nudity.
The website uses Adobe Flash to display video and access the user's webcam. Flash's peer-to-peer network capabilities (via RTMFP) allow almost all video and audio streams to travel directly between user computers, without using server bandwidth. However, certain combinations of routers will not allow UDP traffic to flow between them, and then it is necessary to fall back to RTMP.
Initially the site only asked users to confirm that they are at least 16 years old and agree on terms to not broadcast any offensive or pornographic content. There was no requirement for login or registration. However, the website now requires users to register for free before they can use the features of the website. The signup requires a username, email address and password. Details such as age, gender and location can be further added under profile and settings. This tab also allows users to write an 'about me' section about themselves, including languages they speak and their taste in music, movies and games. Users can also upload an image of themselves to add to their profile.
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