ChatRoulette Bites The Bullet...For Now

by BILLY GRAY · August 23, 2010

Six months after it became the latest internet sensation and five and a half months after everyone forgot about it, ChatRoulette is offline. A "renewed and updated" version is promised for later today, but it seems like the perv favorite's time has come and gone.

The rise and fall of ChatRoulette was lightning quick even by fickle internet standards, and unlike cheezeburger-having LOLcats, this flash in the pan meme is unlikely to enjoy nine lives.

ChatRoulette blew up in early February of 2010, and quickly filled the pop culture void left by Tiger Woods' waning tabloid scandal. The social network, basically a randomized Facebook complete with web cams, enjoyed a brief, though big, moment:

On February 5th, Sam Anderson asked if ChatRoulette was "the future of the internet or its distant past" in New York. The answer to that question came sooner than anyone could have anticipated, despite...

...a celebrity endorsement from closet tech geek Ashton Kutcher on February 16th...

...the prospect of 17-year old site founder Andrey Ternovskiy  landing a plum breakfast table at Balthazar...

...Billy Joel-inspired memes within memes...

...a meme-y bingo game chronicling said memes within memes...

...and aspirations of becoming the next great internet dating service.

and now:

So what went wrong?

ChatRoulette delivered standard-order internet immediacy. But its randomness, initially a source of user intrigue, turned out to be its biggest flaw. This led to visitors glimpsing old men masturbating through full-body leopard costumes. But it also denied them the opportunity to catalog and archive that experience, to Photoshop whichever images of them went out to strangers (like on Facebook), accrue an impressive number of friends or followers, or nab a celebrity retweet that their friends (digital and real) could retweet and retweet in perpetuity.

There was also the fear of abrupt, unexplained rejection, leaving users staring at a black video screen just above an unflattering shot of their own slack-jawed faces. The ability to click "Next" and the threat of being nexted applied not just to briefly curious visitors, but to ChatRoulette.