Before posting a hasty, shorthand Brittany Murphy eulogy on Twitter that angered critics of the social networking platform, people credited Ashton Kutcher with exposing millions of non-geeks to the technology. Now, for better or worse, he might do the same for Chatroulette.
For those of us still getting the hang of antiquated social media websites like Facebook and, well, Twitter, Chatroulette is a service that randomly matches you up with users around the globe for (often disturbing) video chat sessions. It's the brainchild of 17-year old Moscow resident Andrey Ternovskiy, a Skype addict who created it with "no business goals" in mind.
"We ended up staying on, talking and dancing, connecting and disconnecting, for four hours. We chatted with Pratt students in Bed-Stuy, with a man inexplicably sitting on his toilet, with a kid waving a gun and a knife, and with a guy who went to my wife’s old high school in California... We danced with a guy in his bedroom to the entirety of Michael Jackson’s 'Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.'"
Yikes. As Chatroulette goes mainstream, the experience is sure to become less tawdry/terrifying. (Remember, the Facebook user base was initially confined to Harvard undergraduates, the scariest group of freaks and pervs around.)
You might even wind up talking to Kutcher about his career frustrations. That's what happened to one lucky math major from the University of Calgary, whose Chatroulette shuffle landed him face-to-digital-face with the actor/prankster/cougar prey.
Kutcher told the kid to not read up on his bigger flops ("a bad one called texas rangers") and to check out an underrated gem ("I made a flick called personal effects. no body saw that one but it was pretty cool"). He cut the conversation short, saying "I'm going to hit the road. I'm hosting snl this week." I hate to say it, but this guy's growing on me.
Of course, the randomness of Chatroulette makes it tough for Kutcher to gain a Twitter-sized audience (nearly 5 million people follow him). But his endorsement can't hurt. Raves from tech-centric venture capitalists also validate the site. A VC likened the whole thing to "a walk through Times Square thirty years ago" and meant it as a big compliment. He went on to say that Chatroulette is a "compelling experience":
"The Internet is this huge network with over a billion people worldwide on it. Chatroulette feels like a pretty cool way to take a quick trip around that network, meeting people and talking to them."
As for Kutcher, despite his modest good humor about professional shortcomings, he might have less time to promote Chatroulette (presumably free of charge) now that he's returned to blockbuster movie form with Valentine's Day.