Watch Chatroulette jump the shark….

I’m watching the usage of Chatroulette carefully at the moment as it could be about to prove a theory I’ve had for a while…

When I’ve researched streaming video/webcam sites in the past, I’ve seen that besides some notable brand channels, the majority of broadcasters seem to be under 20, and the most popular ones then to be female. And due to the often disturbing nature of the conversations and videochats that arise, the likes of Justin.tv, Stickam etc have all tried to clamp down on this behaviour with automated and human filtering and moderation. They’ve tended to focus their efforts on encouraging brand content and integrating with platforms such as Facebook, whilst suffering the occasional challenge from their use for the illegal rebroadcasting of PayPerView sporting events etc.

Yesterday Chatroulette founder and CEO Andrey Ternovskiy posted a lengthy and thoughtful post regarding the service famed for the frequency of naked males appearing on webcam – the speed with which you cycle through prospective chat partners highlighted how many guys looking for an audience.

‘ Recently I decided to seriously look into issue again, and I’ve had a breakthrough.
Luckily we all live in a real world, and we can easily apply the laws of a real world even on an internet application. With the help of a few good developers we’ve started collecting information, such as IP addresses, logs and screen captures of offenders who actually break US/UN laws by broadcasting inappropriate content in a specific situations. We’ve captured and saved thousands of IP addresses of alleged offenders, along with logs and screenshots which prove wrong behavior. We are initiating a conversation with enforcement agencies and we are willing to provide all the information we have. I hope that with help of a Criminal law we can finally get the problem out of our shoulders and get existing organizations which usually solve these kind of problems to help us.’

I definitely agree with measures to prevent images being received by anyone who hasn’t chosen to see them, or those who are below the age at which they can choose for themselves.

But I’m struggling to see exactly how Chatroulette will continue to function without the reason it came to fame in the first place – the notoriety for nudity. The launch of Channelroulette means that there’s a specific part of the site for those wishing for more adult content, but there’s still no age restriction or barrier to anyone entering, and as the audience is split into groups, the serendipity of a large, random pool of potential connections is going to be minimised.

So I’m going with two hunches – the decision to crack down on offensive/illegal activities was prompted by the investors in the service (The ability to capture IP addresses and screen captures doesn’t seem particularly revolutionary), and traffic to the site is about to take a big dive.

Possibly there’s a revolutionary new video service about to spring out of Chatroulette which might leapfrog Justin, Stickam et al in their efforts to increase the revenue from broadcasting webcam streams. But there doesn’t seem to be a clear path at the moment, considering Ternovskiy ends with the hope ‘someday our service will become a beautiful video world, an internet country with no borders and locations’. Just after mentioning their new location-matching algorithm).

Video is definitely significant as broadband speeds increase (and sadly data caps often decrease), but it still tends to be primarily a consumption  medium with significant streaming and distribution costs. And I’m not sure Chatroulette is going to move any further than the existing services in creating successful video-based businesses.