In the early 1990s, AOL’s chat rooms allowed people to connect with strangers. Since then, concerns about interaction with strangers online have sparked worries for the safety of children and teenagers communicating with adults with questionable intentions.This led to a new wave of social networking which consisted of websites like Facebook and Google+, which only allowed users to interact with friends under certain privacy standards.
On Tuesday, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, the team known for creating Napster, launched a new social networking site called Airtime. Airtime enables users to interact with both Facebook friends and strangers via video chat. Users are connected with others with similar interests, shared social connections, or even location.
Inspired by Chatroulette, a website that pairs strangers from around the world and enables them to video-chat; Airtime has various systems such as facial recognition software that points out if no faces are present on camera, as well as a ranking system that rewards those who can have conversations without being “nexted” (passed over in favor of someone else), all of which are used to avoid problems faced by Chatroulette.
According to Parker, Airtime was created to add encourage connections in the way Facebook does not — by introducing strangers to one another. He hopes that the ability to connect with both old and new friends alike will bring back “the surprise and serendipity to the internet.” He plans on doing this by bucking the industry trend. Rather than imitating what Google+ is doing with circles, or Facebook with friendship grouping, Parker plans on reducing the boundaries to interaction, encouraging people to branch out and expand their online social circles.
So, will it get people excited about the internet? And will the connections it provides help users create long-lasting friendships? Since Airtime functions as a platform that enables people to meet others with common interests virtually, it is the middle ground between Facebook, a virtual community consisting of only people you know and websites such as meetup, a site designed to meet up with people that have common interests with you. This alone, creates a niche market that may lead to success in the future.