back to article Sean Parker launches Chatroulette killer: For why?

Celebrity billionaire tech investor Sean Parker thinks video chat is what the world needs most, and is putting his money where his mouth is. Now pinch yourself that it isn't 1995. Video chat is the innovation that nobody has ever wanted, but has never gone away. The Facebook and Spotify investor, who was a driving force …


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  1. EvanPyle

    "Parker believes he can stop the inevitable spiral into filth by building in "abuse prevention" filters."

    The man who backed a P2P network honestly believes he can stop exactly what people will use his service for, Porn and Trolling.

    Oh yeah, has he head of this neat application called Skype?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are companies like MS and facebook seeing that no one else is?

    I know of only one person who currently uses video to chat, and that's because they just discovered it on their Iphone.

    Skype users have increased (kinda) at my work location, but it's almost like a fad, I saw people using it, now I see less and less doing so.

    We've got a whole conference room setup with cameras, microphones, large projection screens, etc.... for doing exactly this,'s not done because no one show interest in doing so....

    I guess I could see it with the younger gen, and kinda becoming a maybe.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My entire family use Skype to stay in touch, especially to see my bouncing baby nephew throw stuff around my sister's pristine front room.

      Then at work all our meeting rooms have video conferencing facilities and multiple 42" LCDs to view from, which we use to have multi-continent meetings - China, Singapore and Aus in the mornings, US in the afternoons.

      All our laptops have webcams built in and we use that when we can't get a meeting room.

      It's not exactly chat roulette, but video is hugely important to both my personal and professional life.

    2. The Indomitable Gall


      There's a reasonable market in internet language teaching, and let me tell you it works a lot better as a video conference than voice only. I teach one-on-one using Skype, and I was taking French lessons with the OU in a virtual classroom with no video -- Skype's a million times better.

      When either party is trying to deal with an unfamiliar language, visual cues are far more important.

      Although you have to learn to nod and shake your head very slowly....

  3. Reality Dysfunction

    inevitable spiral into filth by building in "abuse prevention" filters.

    So every user will get a current photo of Margaret Thatcher to stick up next to the computer??

    1. Havin_it

      >a current photo of Margaret Thatcher

      As opposed to back in the 80s when she was hawt?

  4. JDX Gold badge

    >>But today, even with free telephony and ubiquitous webcams, video chat hasn't broken out of its niche market of murky exhibitionists.

    People use video-chat on Phones/FaceTime all the time.

    1. Irongut Silver badge

      When / where?

      I have never once had anyone try to video call me on my phone and have never seen anyone using that feature either. Even 99% of the Skype use I've seen / participated in has just been using it for a cheap audio only conference call.

      1. RAMChYLD

        Re: When / where?

        East Asian countries, particularly South Korea and Japan.

        Especially Japan. People there seem to use video calls for practically everything. Then again, Japanese culture is complex (for example, they seem to be perfectly fine with things westerners find revolting) and doesn't apply much anywhere else.

        Elsewhere, enterprises are starting to find it important to have video at teleconferences for some reason. I know companies who're looking into installing video conferencing kits into their branches because other companies insist on seeing the who's on the other end before being willing to get down to business.

    2. geejayoh

      People use video-chat on Phones/FaceTime all the time.

      But do they?

      Let's take FaceTime as an example - seeing as you've decided that it is it's own entity and innovation separate from other "phones" (not just a single enabling technology such as skype, facebook (which has video chat) , google talk et al.) (#I smell a fanbois, or just a goon susceptible to marketing).

      FaceTime only works over wifi. And you have to be friends with all the other apple fanbois. And you have to log into facetime. And so do they.

      If I'm sitting at my lappy or my computer I'll use Skype. But then it's just generally easier to chat over text. Especially if you're busy or don't want to be disturbed.

      I also read somewhere that 70% of men regularly make phone calls in the news. (Source: Scientific Proof Magazine). I think most of the time that would make me not want to make a video call. Unless it was some significant other on the other side. Plus - when the boss calls and asks why you're late, and you're still in your PJs and hungover from the night before, it's easier to hide behind a phone than video.

    3. electricmonk

      >>> People use video-chat on Phones/FaceTime all the time in the commercials.

      There, fixed that for you.

  5. Don Jefe

    Fiber in the 80's?

    Most places are still selling their souls for fiber. The 'rest' of the world the author obviously hasn't done business is still, at best ISDN, it must be nice in your ivory tower.

    Video confrencing is used in many large companies - HP, Oracle, IBM and Cisco all use it daily.

  6. frank ly

    The Pink'Un .... what people expected to see on ChatRoulette. I suspect that little will change.

  7. LinkOfHyrule

    Cam 2 Cam?

    Sometimes people just invest in things they happen to like even if the business model is shit. Maybe he's into "cyber"?

  8. Ryan 7

    That video is painfully unfunny

    Much better example of chatroulette:

  9. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Video calling...

    Pushed by the channels, not wanted by many other than web 2.0 sales pushers.

    The few that I know who went down the line with video calling/conferencing quickly gave up as the dream that was sold was nowhere the hard reality. From codecs where video is the driver resulting in choppy audio (choppy video is passable, choppy audio isn't) to the rampant lies about required upload bandwidth which when combined with the upload bandwidth lies given by ISPs results in nowhere enough bandwidth, it's often off to a very bad start. That's before the environmental issues of audio, lighting and visual presentation come in - you do have a dedicated room for video conferencing don't you? Video conferencing can work, and when it does it can work well but it takes a lot more effort than most solution pushers will ever admit.

    Of course, that's the commercial video conferencing side - while personal video conferencing shares the same bandwidth and performance issues and is frequently made useless by environmental factors (for example users with windows behind them), many users just prefer not to be visible due to the additional stress of trying to look good on camera. This said, it's fantastic for widely separated families to keep in touch, even if they don't often use the video option it's there as an option so they can see each other.

    As for using it on mobiles... forget anything other than wifi otherwise there's never anywhere near enough bandwidth to upload the video stream.

  10. geejayoh

    Why has video not taken up it's mantle?


    Possibly because it's too unreliable. Still.

    I use video chat on skype and QQ on my home broadband connection, and even across the world it seems to work fine.

    I would list several reasons why (and it's not the end point application like Naptard says it is)

    1. Incompatible products - everyone has a phone and single identifiable phone number. If I want to voice call my friends and family, I just call their number. I have about 25% of my contact book on Skype. The others, only their phone number. Either they don't have Skype, or I just can't be bothered to get their Skype address. So for every new app that is released that can do video, there's a separate contact list to keep.

    As an example, Skype is terrible on phones. It never stays logged in, or it takes up too much memory that garbage collection comes around and kills it off if I open 1 or 2 new apps. This happens on Android and my iPad under iOS. So I'm never online long enough for people to call me. THEREFORE I can't just pick up my phone and dial like I would a phone number. Everyone has to be online at the right time.

    Apple may have made an attempt with facetime to integrate it a little - but there is a REASON why they made it Wi-Fi only (however restricting that is). The current networks are just not good enough, as are the methods of actually initiating the call.

    If there was some way to start a video chat simply by dialling the telephone number and choosing voice or video - I think a whole bunch more people would go for it. It would become second nature. I think 3 in the UK tried this for a while - do they still do it? But again, the problem is here - VENDOR LOCK-IN. Apple, 3 - only if you mates are on the same network or device, can you make easy, established ways to make video calls.

    So we've got some key limiting factors: time, place, device, accessibility.

    2. Video chews through bandwidth. Had the telcos kept the unlimited usage wonderlands, we might have finally got around to make video a part of our everyday business, but right now, they just don't want you / I / us using video all the time. They haven't turned on enough of their dormant capacity / aren't through charging exorbitant rates yet to welcome wholesale use of video

    3. Video is time sensitive to delivery of packets. Voice is too if over an IP network, but it's a connected network and the established infrastructure is there to handle it. True, voice will also cut off in a tunnel, but the 3G / HSPA services are just not realiable enough, on the move, to give us satisfactory video chats. Skype suffers immeasurably over a wi-fi network for good quality video. It's different to standard video streaming with all the processing that needs to be done either side.

    4. Devices aren't good enough. The cameras that go into phones - especially the front ones, go in as an after thought. They're ostensibly put there for the very subject of this article, for video chat. But nobody ever uses them - because they're not integrated as natural addition to the telephone network.

    Until every phone network goes IP and Data only and even voice is across the data streams, so we can connect video to our phone numbers, then we won't take to the all seeing-all dancing video future. When this happens, over the top apps (Talk, Skype, et al) won't be needed, because the video call will be second nature. Pick up my phone, press the picture of my wife on the screen and a few seconds later it's replaced by a real-life grinning version of her.

    Moreover on top of this - I've seen plenty of articles suggesting that telcos are worried about becoming simply commodity players, only providing the tubes for the dominating companies (Google, Facebook et al). Well, if they got their act together and actually started moving towards integrating the video into the network like this, without the need for apps or other providers, they could have a bonafide reason to start offering package deals and making money off of it, like they did with SMSs. Once again, 3 already did it. Why not the rest?

    I for one, would welcome our new video overlords. Although I don't really fancy sitting on my metro to work in China listening to all the locals getting their face-time in with their squeeze early in the morning.. They're already loud enough on the phone - I fear with video the din would be deafening.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

      "If there was some way to start a video chat simply by dialling the telephone number and choosing voice or video - I think a whole bunch more people would go for it."

      It's called SIP. It's been around for a long time and most VoIP installations are based on it. While the uptake has been slow, it's mainstream now than ever and it's only a matter of time (years) before mobile phones convert to SIP for signaling voice/video and everything rides over a mobile data stream.

      I know Sprint has been planning this for a while, as part of their conversion to IPv6 and I suspect other carriers are considering the same. Once that happens, video will become more commonplace, albeit still not so useful after a bender or if you just like sitting around in your underwear.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

        I would think that would be when it was most useful*.

        * - doesn't happen as often as it used to, with me.

    2. Fuzz

      Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

      "If there was some way to start a video chat simply by dialling the telephone number and choosing voice or video - I think a whole bunch more people would go for it."

      isn't that how video calling works? A lot of 3G phones have forward facing cameras for this feature, the reason why it's not on all 3G phones is that no one uses it. The reason no one uses it is because it is not because it's difficult it's because it isn't very useful and it costs more than a voice call, most people simply don't want to make video calls.

      1. DaveDaveDave

        Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

        Video-calling is a bit too difficult to access, but in any case doesn't really work on phones. The problem isn't making a call - you could imagine calling someone up and saying 'hey, look at this cool scenery' or something in the same way you might snap a pic or record a video. The problem is that we don't look at videos and pictures on our phones very much - we prefer to view them on larger screens.

        Skype video calling, on a big screen and with a decent quality webcam and microphone at the other end, is like having a magic window to somewhere a long way away. It's a brilliant concept, when used right, and when the technology works.

      2. geejayoh

        Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

        Yes it is called SIP. But that's another protocol and it requires extra software to work. iOS, Android don't support SIP numbers out of the box. Like I said - unless it's integrated and made invisible. Are you willing to keep 2 numbers, one for voice and one for video.

        Then we're back to the same problem. That your friends and family have to have a SIP number too.

        Integration will be key here.

    3. Eddy Ito

      Re: Why has video not taken up it's mantle?

      "I've seen plenty of articles suggesting that telcos are worried about becoming simply commodity players... Well, if they got their act together and actually started moving towards integrating the video into the network like this, without the need for apps or other providers"

      There's the rub, getting their act together would require creating a standard that works with their competitors and that only comes when differentiability and lock-in are placed on the sacrificial altar and that's one more step along the road to commodity bit pipe provider.

      Even if they did manage to find the holy grail of common protocols and lock-in I don't think the uptake would be that high anyway given how and where phones are used. Generally it's bad enough when I call someone only to hear flushing, etc. in the background and know they are in the bog, with video calls being on the same line I can only pray they use the audio only button to answer it. Then again, it would bring new meaning to the phrase "fat fingered the phone".

  11. Justicesays

    The next "next big thing"

    It just came to me, the ultimate ever anticipated technology.

    3D Video Chat.

    I'm off the see if I can patent that and found a company right away...

  12. johnnytruant

    That's all very well

    But I don't see what Norwich City Football Club's newsletter has to do with it?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: That's all very well

      Very good, but it's the Financial Times.


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'What's different this time?'

    They'll monitor and record your conversations. See

    Whether or not that will actually prevent it from becoming another Chatroulette is debatable.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "abuse prevention" filters

    Frankly, go down that route and they'll be business destruction filters. Barring the occasional grandparent/cute kid in faraway country scenario - already well catered for through Skype, Yahoo etc - the only thing that will conceivably make video chat even slightly useful to the majority is if a brings a new angle to online wank sharing, so filtering it out has to be suicide.

    I've only ever done a couple of personal video calls to friends away travelling, and frankly the whole thing is just too much of a strain. It's easy enough to chat by phone for an hour, but you can get on with other things, pick your nose etc while you do it. Throw in an image and it becomes very, very hard work. All the 'natural' and extremely nuanced body language we use so easily when in the same room with freedom of movement and no latency needs to be ramped up to even be seen, and it loses much of its immediacy. In short, its tiring, and a conversation with a very close friend starts to take on the texture of a rather more distant and formal same room relationship.

    Given the propensity of one of my close colleagues to wander around his home studio in his cacks till mid-afternoon, there are just more ways in which video chat is a bad idea (like; really don't want to go there moments) than there are good.

    So Shawn; it's embrace beaver sharing or the dustbin of history. Your choice.

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