"One night, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and decided to revisit the old chat rooms that were a big part of my childhood, since I basically grew up on the internet. Chatroulette was the first thing that came to mind, but when I went to the site, I was disappointed to find out that the text box was gone. I rarely ever used the webcam when I was younger because of safety reasons. Still, I was really bored and figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried video chat. I don't know why I was still surprised when the first stranger I was paired with was a man fondling his crotch. And so was the third. And the seventh. They weren't all doing the exact same act, but the intent was similar. Instead of connecting with people, it became a stealth game of Avoiding The Penis as I disconnected from user after user. Out of 10 connections, I would only encounter one decent (and decently-clad) individual. And even those conversations were barely coherent. Oh well, childhood ruined." - Felisa, 23
"I got bored, so I used it. And I never tried it again. That was a very traumatic experience!" -Tracy, 20
Design and Usability
Upon visiting chatroulette.com, the layout that we were used to back in 2010 is now radically different. Gone is the familiar structure of two tiny screens on top of each other with a chatbox mostly dominating the screen on the right. Now, users are presented with only the webcam screens. Text chatting is now unavailable, so users are left to chat visually and verbally with each other
- Inappropriate and pornographic content became rampant on the site
- Controversial connections such as the staged suicide by artist duo Eva and Franco Mattes
- Security was almost nonexistent; as Chatroulette didn't ask for personal information
- Individuals used to be unable to report perverted users who would harass their chat partners
- You were more likely to encounter naked or masturbating men more than any other type of user
The spontaneity of Chatroulette quickly became its doom. Soon enough, users were exhibiting offensive and obscene behaviour on the site. A survey by RJMetrics found that in 2010, one out of eight connections would yield something R-rated "or worse" (Moore, 2010). Due to the lack of authentication and monitoring, the site was labelled "a predator's paradise". There was also a controversial online performance by artist duo Eva and Franco Mattes where they would connect to strangers, only to show a messy room and the corpse of a man hanging from the ceiling. User reactions varied from terror to disgust to mockery. The performance, titled "No Fun", was banned from YouTube.
In response to the public outcry, Chatroulette implemented the facial recognition system. Up until the time of writing, the site can still reject users with the message "Search rejected due to the detection of a possible under-age face." However flattering this might be to the writer if this system shows faulty results for a most-definitely-legally-aged individual, who's to say it will not erroneously approve an actual minor trying to use it? You can now also report inappropriate users on Chatroulette. If you click on the report button, you will see the message "User reported" and you are redirected to your next connection. However, it is unclear whether the reported user gets banned from the site or not.