Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

The risks and rewards of Chatroulette

Almost every major advancement in the history of the Internet has carried both its risks and rewards.

E-mail can be used to send either messages or viruses. Online shoppers might buy something rare, but it could cost them their identity. Facebook and Twitter help students stay in touch, but they can also make it easier for others to stalk them.

A new way for visitors to the Web to chat carries the Web’s costs and benefits to new heights. For some, presents never-before-seen opportunities. For others, it presents dangers that drive them away from the site. is a Web site that directs visitors to a random video and text chat with a complete stranger. Each chat ends when one of the two visitors clicks the “Next” button to move to a new chat. Thus, ending a chat with someone is referred to as “nexting” them.

Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old living in Moscow, created Chatroulette. In an e-mail to The New York Times technology blogger Brad Stone, Ternovskiy said users had been so creative with the site that he could not say exactly what Chatroulette is now, making it hard for him to decide how to expand and develop the site.

“Everyone finds his own way of using the site,” Ternovskiy said. “Some think it is a game, others think it is a whole unknown world, others think it is a dating service. Others do really unbelievable things I could never think of. They make up songs about strangers and sing to them, draw them, listen to music, broadcast them their own music. Two groups of teenagers can party together. That’s just great, in my opinion.”

However, several UA students talked about the many possible obscene uses Chatroulette can offer.

“I’ve seen so many penises,” said John Thomas, a freshman in New College with a concentration in linguistics. “It probably started out pretty innocent, then you get people on there brandishing their wares.”

Thomas said while Chatroulette could be good for laughs, he wouldn’t recommend the site to anyone else.

“I’ve used it twice, and I’m not going back,” Thomas said. “My eyes are already hurt enough. It could be useful for fun, but people are usually gross on there. That’s the Internet. The Internet’s gross.”

Daniel Nelson, a senior majoring in computer science, said the perversion of Chatroulette’s chats is nothing new.

“It just looks like a more modern version of AOL Instant Messenger’s ‘Find a Friend,’ which they don’t have anymore,” Nelson said. “It turned from ‘Find a Friend’ to find a creeper.”

Nelson also said he did not use Chatroulette. He said he learned of the site’s notoriety through pictures of disastrous chats on FailBlog.

“It looks sketchy,” Nelson said. “Honestly, I got all that kind of stuff talking to people when I was in 10th grade, back in the days of AOL Instant Messenger. It’s gotten old.”

Even Ternovskiy said he disapproved of obscene behavior on Chatroulette. The site lets users report users who display illegal or offensive behavior, banning the offender from the site for 10 minutes.

“Some people are using the site in not very nice ways,” Ternovskiy said. “I am really against it.”

However, the open sexuality of Chatroulette isn’t a turn-off for everyone.

Stacy Oliver, a junior majoring in psychology, said she enjoys Chatroulette so much that she decided to conduct a research project on it for her Gender and Sexuality in Pop Culture class. She said she quickly realized gender determines many of the decisions people make on Chatroulette about whom to chat with and how long to chat with them before “nexting” them.

“My fascination and specific focus for studying Chatroulette is developing as an exploration of how Chatroulette is used, how extensively it is used, and maybe what makes talking to someone on webcam face to face so different from talking to someone offline face to face,” Oliver said.

“And how much of peoples’ behavior on Chatroulette reflects how people relate to each other in reality?  How much are these experiences influenced by gender or anonymity?”

Oliver said it is true that most Chatroulette users visit the site just to show their genitalia to other users, and seeing one of these users in action is inevitable for other users. She also said she is usually so anxious to click “Next” to get out of a chat with an offending user that she doesn’t use the “Report” function.

However, Oliver said the risks are worth it.

“The addicting part of this website for me is the fact that “nexting” people is endless,” Oliver said. “No matter how many times you press “next”, you will have to run into people from different places doing different things and using the site in different ways.  So after you ‘next’ the first person you perceive as a pervert, there’s the possibility the next person could be really funny, really interesting, a potential new friend, someone you find really attractive, or some other possibly rewarding interaction.”

Floyd Mayweather, a junior majoring in athletic training, said there was about a 60 percent chance of seeing something offensive on Chatroulette.

“It’s a little bit higher than low,” Mayweather said. “I think I’ve seen somebody streaking.”

Mayweather said he had not been on Chatroulette very much, but he would go back.

“I’m diverse,” Mayweather said. “I like meeting new people.”

To participate in Stacy Oliver’s Chatroulette survey, go to

More to Discover