June 5, 2012 at 1:15 PM ET
Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, two of the men behind music service Napster, revealed their latest creation on Tuesday. It's called Airtime. And it's described as a "social video network."
Airtime is essentially a browser-based video chat service which relies on your Facebook identity. All you have to do is grab a webcam, head to the Airtime website and login using your Facebook account — no downloads or installations are required.
Airtime will allow you to video-chat with your Facebook friends or match you up with strangers, based on location and shared Facebook interests. (Your identity isn't revealed to the strangers until you choose to share your name, mind you.) If you're not particularly charmed by your chat partner, you can simply click "next" and go on to the next one.
The whole setup is a lot like Chatroulette, a site which randomly paired strangers up for video chats. No coincidence here, since both Parker and Fanning briefly worked with Andrey Ternovskiy, that platform's 17-year-old Russian founder, before it became old news.
The trouble with Chatroulette, of course, was that many users — ahem — exposed themselves on camera. We'll have to see how Airtime will deal with nudity and other inappropriate content. Perhaps simply having their Facebook accounts — and in theory, their real identities — associated with their Airtime usage will discourage most from getting indecent. But somehow I doubt that's enough of a deterrent for the troublemakers.
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