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24th April 2014  Features

Chatroulette Dot Com

18th June 2010
Wendy Oloya

17 year old Russian Student creates new internet craze.

Two weeks ago, the Wessex Blog commented on the latest Internet craze Chatroulette Chatroulette pairs you up with a random stranger from anywhere around the world via webcam text and audio. At any point during the conversation you can terminate it and start another with a different person. To take you back to that day, sheer procrastination meant that myself and two other Wessex Scene editors stumbled upon the website unexpectedly. Fascinated by the outcome, we decided to delve deeper into the history behind the website.

The site’s creator 17-year-old student Andrey Ternovskiy from Moscow apparently set up the online chat craze because he was bored with the predictability of Skype. He has previously said ‘I always knew who was waiting for me and who I would be speaking to.’ Ternovskiy wanted a site that was more arbitrary in terms of whom he could speak to. So after spending two days and two nights writing software, the very first version of Chat Roulette was created. Although initially created for friends, the site gained immediate attention from web surfers all over the world. It has been reported, that in November 2009, the month of its launch, there were 50 visitors a day. A mere month later this had increased to 50,000. Today there are around 1.5 million users who visit the site each day. According to Ternovskiy, ‘33 percent of visitors come from the United States 5 percent from Germany.’ Consequently, he now rarely goes to school, preferring to hone his programming skills and prepare for business negotiations.

Access to the website is straightforward, only requiring the user to ‘allow’ or ‘deny’ Chatroulette access to their camera and microphone, before they gain admission to the site. This minimalist approach differs greatly from the tight controls of Facebook, which require various login details to be able to use the site. The easy accessibility of Chatroulette opens the floodgates to those who abuse the Internet. Whilst on the site, we were shocked to see, most of the men either exposing themselves or indulging in sexual practices. This, alongside images of young groups of children we saw on the site, made us all very uneasy at the thought that these children could, and most probably would be subjected to images of men making friends with themselves. In light of this, Ternovskiy has also made an effort to take precautions against the more dangerous users of Chatroulette. Now, if three complaints are made against one individual in the space of five minutes, that individual becomes barred from the site. The problem with this however is that the individual is only barred for 40 minutes. So if a complaint is made against someone every ten minutes as opposed to five, that person will not be blocked and will have the freedom to continue abusing the site.

Nonetheless, the site has asserted itself in mainstream culture, with exposure from various media outlets such as CNN, and the New York Times. This has also been reinforced by the influence of television and celebrity. For example, the site was parodied in the South Park episode ‘You have 0 Friends’. Also, celebrities (the term being loosely used here) such as Kelly Osbourne, Perez Hilton and Nicole Ritchie have all been reported to use the site. Also, it cannot be denied that, juxtaposed against the danger posed, there is a fun, exciting element to the website. One person we spoke to, a blonde, baby faced young man from Denmark, was highly amused by the sock puppet show we performed (none of us the courage to have our faces on the webcam so created a decoy!)

The conversation lasted for three minutes yet induced laughter from all four of us, an indication that many, for innocent reasons, use the site.

Ternovskiy now manages the site using the free programme Google Analytics, from the comfort of his childhood bedroom. The magnitude of the site has meant that he has had to employ four programmers to assist him, one of whom lives in Belarus and another who hails from Virginia. While his achievements have been widely recognized, the question of money arises. How could a 17-year-old high school student possibly afford employers as well as server resources? The answer is his parents. They gave him $10,000 as an investment, of which he has already paid back, undoubtedly because of the advertising links to an online dating site from Chatroulette. As a result, he is now ‘making very good money’. Interest from more prolific companies include High-Tech Hub Silicon Valley and Google, whilst Skype have invited him to go to America.

These prospects maybe exciting and have perhaps encouraged Ternovskiy who now wants his own company and office, preferably in the U.S.

Though he is open to the idea of a shares scheme, Ternovskiy claims that the site will always be his always be his.


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