The latest high profile venture from Silicon Valley is now Airtime, which has been co-founded by Sean Parker (Facebook, Spotify) and Shawn Fanning (Napster). Airtime Leverages ‘Interests’ Data in Facebook for Webcam Chats. While Chatroulette was the first to pioneer the idea of webcam chats with strangers, Airtime leverages critical social data about ‘interests’ in Facebook profiles to find matches willing to webchat.
Users can find other willing users based on their location, common interests or are friends of friends (on Facebook). The obvious concerns with the idea included privacy and abuse. Looking at creepy stories from the infamous Chatroulette, Airtime has already incorporated several measures to encounter it.
- Even after a user clicks starts chatting with another user, usernames remain anonymous until both users agree to add each other to their Airtime friend list.
- The service is only open to Facebook users who are 13 years or older (based on their Facebook profiles). Also, the service pairs under 18 years only with each other.
- Users have the option of reporting chat partners to Airtime for misuse of the service.
So why did these two leaders invest in the company? Sean Parker recently commented that social media is making people lonelier and that human interaction is being reduced to clicks and updates- which is unnatural. Airtime does hold a lot of potential upgrades such as providing the service on mobile or tablet platforms. As with Google Hangouts, the service will be ultimately provided to include group chats (hint: brand chat rooms).
Potential sources of revenue include ads and even virtual currencies that users would be able to buy virtual goods for chat partners. While users may not pay full attention to the ads being shown, buying virtual goods could serve up to be the more interesting revenue stream.