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Taking an Online Gamble?

Chatroulette has become an overnight sensation for those in the know on the Web.  Started in November of 2009, the concept is relatively simple: Chatroulette is a website that pairs random strangers from around the world together for webcam-based conversations.  Similar to a speed-dating session, you can skip to the next chat at any time if your partner is boring you (or perhaps sharing too much skin—gross!)  The site has become a favorite among college students; which was how I first heard of it.  While taking a break from studying for exams, my roommate and I decided to take a spin on the site, and we soon found ourselves face-to-face with a wide array of different characters—pantless men, a pair of singing Japanese teenagers and a college-aged guy serenading us with his guitar were some of the highlights.

According to an article on CNN.com, one of the reasons why Chatroulette has become so successful is the sense of anonymity that comes with connecting to random strangers.  Like its namesake game, Chatroulette offers a chance to feel the rush of exhilaration in anticipating the unexpected.  However, is this the only appeal of the site?  If a similar venture were to be launched on a social-networking site, where one theoretically knew all of their contacts, would the appeal be gone?  I personally don’t see myself putting a service like this to much use. The limited numbers of my friends with whom I chose to Skype or video chat are the ones who aren’t  scared away by my messy-haired, no makeup, poorly lit, double-chinned self on screen. Call me vain, but I don’t see a lot of appeal in exposing that side of myself to the cyber world.

What do you think?

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