One minute you're chatting via webcam with a mom of two from Montauk, N.Y. -- and the next you're staring at a stark-naked man in Bangkok. Such is virtual life on Chatroulette, an "extreme social networking" Web site that connects users with a limitless number of "random strangers" from around the globe.
The concept of the site is great: In theory, the ability to talk to random netizens from anywhere on the planet is the wonder and glory of the Internet made real. This level of accessibility breaks down the traditional barriers that separate people and cultures, and should make all of our lives richer.
The reality, as well documented over the past few months, is that too often the site brings out the worst in people, connecting you not with a friendly stranger but a pervert eager to expose himself to the unsuspecting.
To prevent this, TechCrunch reports that the site is planning to add software that will automatically scan all videos for images of genitalia; the site could then ban those inappropriate users.
TechCrunch notes that "users that are consistently quickly skipped over (presumably because they are exposing themselves or otherwise being disgusting) can be flagged as well. With those and other changes Chatroulette may be able to put people who actually want to talk to each other in touch much more often."
Or is it too late? Has Chatroulette already become synonymous in your mind with creepy perverts?