Airtime, the next big thing from Napster Co-founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker officially launched to the public today. The service is a Facebook web application for person to person calls, similar to Skype, but with a trwist. Airtime focuses on matching people with common tastes through access to your Facebook likes pages, not necessarily people you already know.
The app has been in production for nearly two years, with obvious ancestry dating back to chatrroulette. Only this time, the conversations will be closely monitored and linked back to your Facebook account. So if you act inappropriately, you will be booted. You still have the option of removing your name from the chat feed. The other person may not know who you are, but Airtime does. If a member complains, you could be in trouble.
The launch event today saw the likes of Olivia Munnn, Joel McHale, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ad Helms, Snoop Dog and Jim Carrey all plugging the new service.
According to The Huffington Post, Airtime "failed one user-interaction test after another" during the public demo, with all the celebrities standing by. They joked with the crowd during the fiasco, amusing at least one person: Sean Parker. "I can't actually thank you guys enough," he said at the end of the session, "because you took a completely fucked-up situation where everything was going to shit and actually salvaged it."
An Airtime representative tried to save face after the launch demo failed miserably. "The glitches from this morning's launch were generated by a custom built intranet for the event, not Airtime. We are happy to report the Airtime network is working and running smoothly."
Airtime was two years and $35 million in the making. Right now it is unclear if people will use it, and after today's problems we have to wonder if it will be technically sound as it moves forward.
As long as it actually works, it does offer some interesting possibilities. For starters, The app automatically brings up common interests between both parties. What may start of as an awkward encounter between too strangers, can quickly turn into a conversation about common interests. This could be anything from music to books to your favorite viral videos, which can be seen simultaneously on the bottom of the screen.
The idea is to make the internet more human, by eliminating the trolling, the disgusting behavior chat roulette was known for, and making it easier for people to connect in a real way. Seeing someone's facial expressions and gestures is key to determining a persons mood and becoming more intimate. The idea of showing common interests immediately will make you instantly drawn to someone who shares those same interest. Especially if it is something that you may be shy about admitting, but secretly want other people to like too.
Sean Parker spoke to TechCrunch about the possibilities his new project offers when compared to the Facebook way of doing things:
“I spent 10 years with identity trying to create the one true social graph, but no one is asking how do you rewire it to more ideally connect people. We’re taking everything I’ve spent 10 years working on and turning it on its head, doing the opposite. There’s no reason not to continue meeting new people.”