In late 2009, a Russian teenager quietly introduced Chatroulette to an unsuspecting Internet. In a few short months, word quickly spread throughout the world that the ability to video chat with random strangers across the globe was now a possibility.
Though a new technology, Chatroulette was a throwback to the dangerous, early days of the Internet–a time when Prodigy and AOL chatrooms were looked upon with fear by the news media and my parents didn’t let me stream 30-second clips from the new Blessed Union of Souls album on Music Boulevard without their presence in the computer room.
As hopeful technophiles wondered aloud what possibilities Chatroulette would bring to the burgeoning landscape of online P2P interaction, a few of the site’s users responded by pulling down their pants and masturbating feverishly, making sure to point their penises at their web cams. Others followed suit, and faster than you can say, “Ugh, what the hell?!?” Chatroulette was 90-percent penises. There were so many penises, in fact, that eventually the only time people would visit Chatroulette was on a drunken dare which would end in viewers shrieking, closing their web browser, hyperventilating, and confirming to others in the room that they had definitely just witnessed a penis on their computer screen.
Though Chatroulette has since added penis-preventing features, the omnipresence of penises during the height of the site’s popularity has decimated its user base beyond recovery. For Internet entrepreneur and and all-around cool guy Sean Parker, a co-founder of Napster who was portrayed by similarly entrepreneurial and similarly all-around cool guy Justin Timberlake in 2010 film The Social Network, the fall of Chatroulette was an opportunity to improve upon the site’s once-promising random video chat technology. According to the above spot from creative studio Portal A, Parker’s new Facebook-integrated video chat network, Airtime (which he co-founded with fellow Napster-ite (?) Shawn Fanning), solves Chatroulette’s failures by replacing penises with Kurt Russell and a bottle of wine.
The spot, which we’re told is a cross between Moonrise Kingdom and the Dollar Shave Club viral video (a comparison made through unbiased speculation and definitely not something quoted directly from a creative brief), also features appearances from a hot girl and MC Hammer to encourage users to give Airtime a shot. Mashable calls the spot “hilarious,” so that’s at least 3,000 people who are live-tweeting their maiden voyage on Airtime as we speak.
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