Last week, Chatroulette was down, displaying nothing but a blank screen and a promise of a quick return. That return didn’t come so quickly, but the site is back now…somewhat.
The downtime message called the previous incarnation of Chatroulette an experiment, but this version is already far less usable, particularly if you don’t have a webcam installed. With no camera, you have nothing to do on the site but drag around some rectangles and wonder just what exactly it is you’re supposed to be doing, or what site you’re even on – there is nothing other than the URL in your address bar indicating your using Chatroulette. It looks something like this:
If you do have a camera installed and are able to use the service, there is a good chance you’ll just see a bunch of dudes exposing themselves. This has obviously been an issue with the site from the start, but Chatroulette recently put up a message saying it was working with authorities to clean things up. On the new version of the site, there isn’t even a single character of text, save for the camera/microphone drop down menus.
Something tells me this isn’t the final product, but either way, users are likely to gravitate toward other options. The novelty of the random video chat will probably die out on the non-pornographic level, as people can just video chat with their friends. Between Skype, FaceTime, Google Voice and Video Chat and other options emerging all the time (like this Facebook app), ChatRoulette may have a hard time keeping up – particularly with this kind of usability.