The world of online video conferencing has been in explosive growth mode recently, and the site Chatroulette has quickly become the latest sensation at the center of the conversation. Last week, it was featured in a segment on The Daily Show where Jon Stewart expertly depicted the current state of the infamous video chat site.
Curious if Chatroulette is “the next Twitter”, the news outlets have sent their reporters to the site. And, as Stewart points out so astutely, it’s getting kind of old.
The site, which gets about 20,000 users on a typical night, generates one-on-one Webcam connections between you and another randomly chosen user. Fans of the site point to the enjoyment of being briefly connected to an interesting person in another part of the world. More often, the site is reminiscent of the early years of the internet with the creepy AOL chat rooms, plus video. Consider the name, inspired by the game of chance: Russian Roulette.
One moment you could be chatting with a friendly girl from Iceland, the next moment you’re suddenly watching a group of frat boys doing something you really don’t want to see. As of late, it seems like the site has followed the old “one bad apple ruins the whole barrel” philosophy: It got a rep for lewdness, so more and more perverts followed suit. Then it went from a novelty game to a den of infamy. The infamous angle was what caught the news outlets’ attention—that and the video element.
Casey Neistat approached the new site for a more scientific breakdown of what might be found there, confirming much of our suspicion and hesitation: the average composition on a weekday afternoon includes 14% of users doing things you really don’t want to see:
Chatroulette as the catalyst
While this is clearly not the medium to be considered for most businesses, there are worthwhile details to notice in this trend. Consider some recent stats for streaming and video conferencing:
- Tiger Woods’ live Ustream broadcast had 683,000 streams.
- YouTube’s U2 concert drew over 10 million streams.
- Markets for webcams at $1.8 billion in 2008 are anticipated to reach $3.2 billion by 2015.
- By 2015, most new computers should either be webcam-ready or have an integrated webcam installed.
- As of March 2009, 40% of video uploads on Facebook were via webcam.
- Gartner predicts that 200 million people will pay for desktop videoconferencing by 2015.
So what Chatroulette has shown businesses is that there is definitely consumer interest in and a market for interactive video conferencing — especially with the younger Gen Y demographic. Interactive video conferencing has also proven to be an effective method for hosting online events, seminars and meetings on a professional level. The Lawyerist LAB Advisory Board offers weekly online video seminars that are attended by lawyers around the country.
Including video increases the sense of personal interaction by the participants and creates a feeling of a networking event, regardless of geographic location. Similarly, Gyi Tsakalakis recently explained that video is a great feature to add to your website to engage with your potential clients and tell a story.
It remains to be seen if Chatroulette itself is a fad or the next Twitter. However, what it has shown is that interactive video conferencing is here to stay and is positioning itself to be the de facto method of communication very soon.