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Chat logo.jpg
Chatroulette official logo [1]
Type Online chat, video chat, voice chat
Launch Date November, 2009
Status active
Product Line product
Platform platform

Chatroulette is a video-conferencing website that connects strangers from around the globe via web cameras and chat rooms. A user is randomly paired with another user, from anywhere across the world and can engage in either a text, audio or video conversation. Each user participating in the interaction can either click "next", start a video chat, or start a text chat. The "next" button ends the current connection and pairs the user up with a new person. Users can continue clicking "next" to shuffle through different users until they are satisfied with their pairing. The "video chat" button allows the user to communicate with the randomly paired user with via video. The "text chat" allows the user to communicate with the user they are paired with via instant message. Both the video and text chats are able to be implemented at the same time. Both users have the option to leave the chat at any given time.

The anonymous nature of the chat rooms allow people to interact however they please; there are no censors or filters to inhibit people from being vulgar or offensive[1]. Notoriously, this lack of censorship leads to extreme voyeurism, 'public' nudity, and sexual acts. As a result, Chatroulette is categorized as a not safe for work (NSFW) site. The site does have rules and guidelines that prohibit sexually explicit behavior but this does not entirely prevent it from occurring. Initially, the site only asked users to confirm that they were 18 years of age. Now the site requires users to create a profile, including username, email address and password in order to create the profile. This was in effort to encourage more meaningful interactions on the site, as well as increase the safety of all users. However, the excessive amounts of voyeurism, paired with the anonymous nature of Chatroulette, leads to many ethical implications.


Andrey Ternovskiy, founder of Chatroulette

Chatroulette was first launched as "" in November 2009 by a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow, Russia named Andrey Ternovskiy.[2] Ternovskiy's inspiration for Chatroulette came from the various video chats he had with his friends on the Skype platform. He claims he wrote the first version of Chatroulette in "two days and two nights". [3] However, Ternovskiy's friends didn't like the site, so he advertised for it on forums. People started to use it, but Ternovskiy did not think the name had the right sound to it. After watching a scene from The Deer Hunter that depicted prisoners of war being forced to play Russian roulette, he decided to rename his website to "Chatroulette". Ternovskiy then bought the domain for seven dollars.

Ternovsky built the site using an old computer in his bedroom and originally coded the entire website himself. The site intially only had 20 users and as the number of users kept doubling, he began working alongside a team of four other programmers. Chatroulette initially never spent money on advertisements and instead relied on word of mouth to spread awareness of the site. Chatroulette's main source of income came through advertising links to an online dating service. [3]

One of the first things that garnered popularity for the site was a Brazilian soccer player posting a notice inviting like-minded people to talk about the sport on Chatroulette. Hundreds of people logged on, and at that point, made up about 50% of the website's user-base. However, instead of the original intent of talking about the sport online, most of the users just "took off their clothes". [4]

Chatroulette has also influenced pop culture. In particular, the 2012 movie Smiley was based around a serial killer who frequented a site very similar to Chatroulette.

Ben Folds, a singer-songwriter known for his talent as a pianist, implemented Chatroulette into a concert in North Carolina in May 2010. [5]. A prior video of an amazing hooded pianist on the site whom many thought to be Folds sparked the musician to make his own video. The video featured both Folds' screen and his multiple encounters with Chatroulette users. The video of Folds using Chatroulette grew to be so popular that he later did the same for other concerts [6].

You will also see people who have created YouTube channels based around their interactions with Chatroulette. Dangmattsmith is a YouYube guru who records funny interactions with strangers on Chatroulette and posts them on youtube for others to see. Most of his video topics revolve around making jokes about sex or race in a non-hurtful manner. As of April 2016, he has almost 2 million subscribers and is still very active, posting content twice a week.


When the site first launched in November 2009, Chatroulette registered approximately 500 visitors per day.[7] One month later, this number had jumped to 50,000.[7] By the beginning of March, Chatroulette boasted a user-base of approximately 1.5 million users. 33% of them were from the United States and 5% from Germany.


Piechart by Gender
  • In a study done by Tech Crunch in March 2010, approximately 50% of all Chatroulette spins resulted in connecting a user with someone in the USA. The next most likely country was France at 15%.
  • The study also indicated that in sessions with only one person in the video conferencing frame, 89% of users were male while only 11% were female.
  • Only 8% of the pairings showed multiple people in the webcam frame, and the likelihood of females appearing in a group was 1 in 3, but for males was 1 in 12.
  • Female prevalence on Chatroulette is so low that a user is more likely to be paired with a session in which no one is in the frame than in a session with only one female.
  • Additionally, 1 in 8 chat sessions were found to have objectionable content. Frames with objectionable content were further broken down to study the "pervert rate" by country, with the United Kingdom outranking other countries with a "pervert concentration" of 22%. [8]
  • Around 90% of users are under the age of 30[8].
  • Younger users view Chatroulette as a platform to be "mischievous" while maintaining relative anonymity.

Online Chat Websites

Screenshot of a Chatroulette session

Many other online chat websites exist that allow users to communicate in different ways including instant messaging, voice chat, and video chat.

  • 6rounds is a cross-platform social media platform allowing users to chat, collaborate and even play games in real-time. It is currently available to the web, Android and iOS platform.
  • FaceTime is an app made by Apple Inc., intended for mobile phones with a forward-facing camera.
  • Omegle allows users to communicate with strangers without registering and offers a mobile application that lets users chat with strangers from a cellular device. Spy Mode, connects three strangers where one stranger asks a question and the other two answer or discuss. Omegle also allows visitors to use Facebook Connect in order to meet strangers with common interests.
  • OoVoo allows users to easily group videochat with several other people. Communication via text messages is also available.
  • Tinychat is similar to Chatroulette but also allows users to create their own virtual chat room on any topic. A person can choose to chat in multiple rooms at once.
  • Skype is an application that allows users to communicate via video and text. It has been implemented into Facebook's interface.
  • Tokbox allows users to implement their API onto the users' own website in order to add video and group chat.
  • Zumbl is a social media website where users can anonymously chat with other users. Users can then tag each other with personality tags they felt resembled others during their conversation. [9] Zumbl won the Samsung Innovation Award 2012. [9]

Ethical Issues

"Bandcamp Logo"
Screenshot of a Chatroulette session

Inappropriate Content

Since Chatroulette doesn't require user registration, there has been a lot of criticism surrounding the web-conferencing site. The site has developed a reputation for lewd images in chat sessions, and is often a platform for "cyber sex". Psychiatrist Keith Ablow avised parents to keep of the site because it is a perfect place for predators to connect with their children. According to a survey that came out by RJ Metrics, one in eight feeds from Chatroulette involved "R-rated" content. The site is even more controversial because until recently, there was not age restriction. In CNET news, an article warns parents to be wary of Chatroulette's alarming images and indecent exposure.[10] According to Ternovskiy, he had no initial business goals for the website; he simply wanted users of the Internet to be able to connect with other users they may not know. He has repeatedly said that he is against individuals using the site for crude or inappropriate material. [11] The site offers a "report" button that will allow users to report inappropriate users. Once a user has more than 5 reports against them, they will be banned from the site. An issue with the user-controlled monitoring on Chatroulete is that many users do not report other users, but simply click "next". However, because most users on the site are anonymous, if any such illegal activity occurs on the site it is often hard to find who is liable, which makes the site that much more dangerous.


Video-conferencing sites are difficult to assign privacy controls, since users have free will on what content they decide to share with others. Chatroulette states that they do not allow nudity and other crude behavior on the site, but it is hard to control this, as the user is unaware of who will show up on the other side of the screen. If the user does not share their information verbally, there is still privacy concerns, as the other user on the screen can see the user physically. In addition, the user is unaware know who is on the other side even their images are being shared. There have been cases where online predators put up a video of a random individual and pretend to carry on a conversation with an actual person on the screen. This introduces danger for the true user because they may be enticed into sharing private information or lured into visiting a scam website.


Sam Anderson, a writer for New York Magazine, refers to Chatroulette as "chaotic and untamed", and describes how some people he encountered on the site shamelessly engaged in sexual acts on camera, some displayed obscene images, and one even showed a picture of a man who hung himself. Due to the fact that the site is uncensored, users never know what images they may come across, which could result in various negative consequences, including embarrassment, emotional damage, and exposure to mature images at a young age.[12] Minors can even be exposed to damaging images and information on the site, as the lack of supervision, censorship or filters allow age restricted material to be represented freely. Parents have been warned of the dangers of Chatroulette and that "it is the last place they should want their kids to be." It has even been called "a predators paradise."

Chatroulette's attempts to improve

Because of all the negative attention surrounding the site's pornographic content, Chatroulette has responded by encouraging users to be at least 18 years old, and stating that the site prohibits "pornographic" behavior. Users can also report other users if offensive behavior is performed. If a user gets three complaints, the user is temporarily banned from using the site. [3] In an effort to further combat this problem, Chatroulette has attempted to apply an algorithm that screened users who violated their video chat policies, in addition to creating a Safe Mode feature. However, in August 2012, the company took down the Safe Mode feature, and instead explicitly stated in their terms and conditions that nudity is not allowed on the site. There is now a pop-up window explaining these new rules to users of the site.[13]

See Also

External Links


  1. A Journal of Undergraduate Research
  2. Chatroulette Wikipedia Entry for Chatroulette
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Spiegel Online International: 'Mom, Dad, the Site Is Expanding'
  4. The New Yorker: The teen-ager behind Chatroulette
  5. Ben Folds Performs Tribute to Chatroulette's Piano Improv Guy
  6. Ben Folds Cranks Out More Chatroulette Piano Improvs
  7. 7.0 7.1 The New York Times Bits Blog: One on One: Andrey Ternovskiy, Creator of Chatroulette
  8. 8.0 8.1 Tech Crunch: Chatroulette Is 89 Percent Male, 47 Percent American, And 13 Percent Perverts
  9. 9.0 9.1
  10. CNET News: Chatroulette shines Webcam where kids shouldn't look
  11. Chatroulette’s Creator, 17, Introduces Himself
  12. New York Magazine: The Human Shuffle
  13. Roulette Chat Sites: Chatroulette Deletes Safe Mode