The new social media site Chatroulette — the brainchild of a Russian teen who'd just been fired from his job in a gift shop — has become an instant global sensation. Celebrities pop up on it all the time. The media is mesmerized. And millions of users keep coming back for more. What's the appeal? Chatroulette reminds us that internet is a very big, and very strange place, Julia Ioffe writes in her New Yorker profile of site founder Andrey Ternovskiy:
"Ternovskiy holed up at home and began to toy with the code for a new site... It took him three days to construct a basic version. A few months later, it was one of the most talked-about social-networking sites in the world...
"The idea is simple. When you log on to Chatroulette.com, you see a sparse white window with two boxes. One box shows your own image, courtesy of your Webcam; the other is for the face of what the site calls, somewhat ambiguously, a “partner.” When Partner appears, you can stay and talk using your voice or your keyboard, or you can click “Next,” which whips you on to someone new. The point is to introduce you to people you’d never otherwise meet and will never see again—the dancing Korean girls, the leopard-printed Catman, the naked man in Gdansk...
"By combining video-chatting technology and randomization Ternovskiy has bucked a decade-long trend that has made the Internet feel progressively more organized, pleasant, and safe."
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