By Mike Hawkins
Internet fads sweep across the Web like a tornado in the Texas panhandle. They tear across the pop culture landscape, leaving hapless onlookers in their wake. Soon, your parents are calling to ask if you saw it.
Chatroulette.com may be the next big storm on the Internet’s horizon.
The site can be described as Internet speed dating. Your webcam broadcasts your image to a random person and vice-versa. You can chat like you normally would on the Web or, occasionally, actually speak.
When you’re done, click ‘next’ and repeat the process with another random person.
You can access the site without a webcam, but I wouldn’t advise it because everyone will just ignore you.
Let me make one thing explicitly clear: Chatroulette will expose you to all the penis you can handle. Erect or flaccid, constrained by briefs or out in the open, this site always seems to offer another phallus.
If you’re into that sort of thing, stop reading and get after it. If you’re feeling repulsed, Chatroulette is definitely not for you. If it doesn’t matter to you one way or the other, you may gain an interesting experience from the site.
The main thing that happens on Chatroulette is that new people get flashed up. Sometimes they skip you for whatever reason and sometimes you’ll skip them, often because you can’t see the feed from their webcam. If you like people watching, you’ll probably enjoy Chatroulette.
After that, the most common thing you’ll see is a penis. I’m not exaggerating. You’ll see more wieners on Chatroulette than a Fourth of July cookout. You’ll see more wangs than a Chinese phone book. More dongs than a doorbell.
But every now and then, the chat gods will smile down from on high and bestow upon you an interesting person to converse with. I’ve chatted with people from all over the United States, as well as folks from Australia, Greece and Germany.
These occasions are where Chatroulette is at its best. More personal than a traditional chat room, but still anonymous, it’s a completely different experience than any other I’ve had on the Net.
If you get tired of all the penis or if someone is berating you, there is a handy ‘report’ button. If someone gets reported enough, the site bans them for a few minutes.
The problem is that you too will be banned and Chatroulette won’t give a good explanation as to why.
I’ve been banned three times in the last couple of days and I wasn’t doing anything outrageous. Perhaps that’s the problem. Maybe penile exhibition is the life blood of Chatroulette, and I wasn’t showing off.
The site supplies you with more “wtf” moments than you know what to do with. Just when you’re ready to give up on it, a worthwhile person salvages the experience.
Whoever runs the site will have to make a few changes before Chatroulette can really take off, but it could turn out to be the next YouTube. Or, it could vanish like AOL.