R.I.P Chatroulette, the last, vast Wild West for exhibitionists whose incessant masturbation has delighted and startled onlookers since my college days. Wired reports that the platform in which users endlessly scroll through each others’ webcams resulting in an unceasing 11-year dongfest, has thrived lately thanks in part to artificial intelligence which has helped moderators identify and ban offenders whose antics have defined the platform.
While there’s still an unfiltered channel (which comes with a tantalising label: “Use at your own risk”), Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy told Wired that it plans to phase it out in 2021.
It’s unclear whether the AI alone has helped Chatroulette’s traffic grow — maybe the bump is correlated more with the pandemic. Data which analytics platform SimilarWeb shared with Gizmodo shows that traffic to the cam site has surged threefold during the pandemic, with a massive uptick from February to July this year. That doesn’t line up especially neatly with when the company retained a firm called Hive to perform AI nudity detection services, a crusade it only began in June. Boost or not, Chatroulette remains a relative hole in the wall, attracting a little over 3 million visits in November, even less than Myspace.
But Wired points out that the company embarked on the rebrand in 2019, which included — lord help us — Chatroulette for companies. The idea is that you can use the Chatroulette model for a pool of conference attendees, simulating something like “chance meetings in the coffee line,” displaying an image of fully clad, interview-ready folks on what looks like another miserable mishap-free Zoom meeting.
In spite of these efforts, executives may want to stop before they click “enable camera,” in Chatroulette: my own a little morning perusal revealed the site remains a thrilling and terrifying experience. Even on the recommended clean channel, a series of dongs flashed before my eyes. I met a naked quivering knee, a long leg draped over a body pillow, the outline of splayed legs far across the room, nude torsos, horny faces resting on pillows. There are still the people who want to do the classic staring contest (my personal favourite.)
I did exchange pleasantries with Tarek, a 21-year-old man from Germany, who was dressed for the outdoors — fully, as far as I know. After disclosing that I was a journalist, my new friend said that there isn’t as much nudity than he remembers on the platform. “Your generation was more horny, I think.”
While I salute Tarek’s generational ambassadorship, I deeply hope that the platform does not pin its assumptions on that polite lie and send its other users packing with their junk to Chaturbate. Chatroulette was not immediately available for comment, but it can look to the lesson of Facebook: appealing to the majority never makes anyone truly happy.