“Hey BillyBob, you wanna watch a cat playing the piano on YouTube while we video chat?” Conversations like this can now be materialized, thanks to a company called Rounds.
The company offers a live video chat meeting point and they have expanded their web video platform to give video chatters extra layers of fun and functionality like the opportunity to view Youtube videos. Rounds’ mission is to bridge the gap between the offline and online world by genuinely replicating real life communication. On Rounds.com and the Video Chat Facebook App, which launched August 17th, you can multi-task social activities like playing games, snapping funny screenshots, listening to music, Facebooking, Youtubing, shopping and more.
Rounds (formerly called 6Rounds) was in closed beta up until recently and, although no advertising was performed, the site has gained 300,000 international members just by word of mouth. Within one week from its launch, the Facebook app already attracted 20,000 members and the numbers should soon surpass that of their website.
My first test of the Rounds.com video chat felt like a Chatroulette scenario (heavy with random weirdos), though I realized soon that the Rounds Facebook App offers many alternatives to avoid this discomfort. In fact, Rounds.com is not intended to be a destination site but rather a learning mechanism to enhance the Facebook application that is currently a friends-only zone and ensures users privacy and trust in the app.
I learned of the multitude of cool features when I met with Rounds CEO Dany Fishel, COO Ilan Leibovich and Marketing Manager Natasha Shine in their Tel Aviv office and received a warm welcome with a fascinating presentation. I asked them questions about Rounds’ features, uniqueness, success and plans for the future:
AllFacebook: How is Rounds different than other social video services such as Chatroulette, Skype or OoVoo?
Rounds: The Rounds Facebook app offers tons of features unavailable on competitor apps – the rich social activities and real-time collaborative games, the funny webcam effects and snapshots possible during conversations. We’ve created an entertaining video chat arena that members spend hours and hours on.
Furthermore, our API is very unique. For example, a developer can create an educational activity and embed the Rounds experience on his website which acts as a tool targeted for his members and clients
AF: What is being done about the abrasive sexual content that is often found on similar services such as Chatroulette?
R: Our focus is on user experience and our highest priority is to make sure that nothing bothersome occurs. Part of the reason we decided to launch the Rounds Facebook app as a friend’s only zone was to protect users’ privacy and begin by creating a loyal, trustworthy user base.
We are constantly monitoring the use of thepplication and blocking people’s inappropriate uses. Once we begin to open the application up with more public features such as random rounds, we will be implementing more security regulations. Chatroulette is a big warning sign for us and we are tip toeing gently to avoid anything remotely similar to it.
AF: What social features does Rounds offer?
R: Currently in the Facebook App you can enjoy high-quality video chats without downloading, take snapshots and share them on Facebook, jointly browse Facebook’s profiles, watch YouTube videos, play multi-user games, collaborate on virtual whiteboards, share pictures on Facebook and Flickr and co-browse on Google Maps.
We also have the following games: Infected Qwertys , Qwerty Invaders, Truth or Dare, Backgammon, Chess and Checkers. Coming soon are Battleship, Tetris Wars, Cowboy Hero and many more! With our developers’ API, the platform is constantly being added to with games and activities, enriching the video experience.
AF: Can you describe the Rounds business model?
R: Rounds uses a coin system allowing members to purchase extra features and functionalities. Members earn free coins by inviting their friends, publishing snapshots and overall engagement. They spend coins to add features like extra webcam effects, virtual animated gifts, games and activities, chat session recording and various enhancements. Another business model we are considering is product placements within the video chat experience though it’s important to note that we don’t want our members feel bombarded by advertisement so it will be done in a non-intrusive manner.
AF: What is your feedback from users?
R: Over the past year we received feedback from members who wanted to see more games and activities on our platform. Statistically speaking, when we started out and didn’t have any games or activities, the video chat sessions were only 3-4 minutes long. As we added more games and activities, we saw the average time per session increase to 19 minutes and it continues to grow!
AF: How can people find new friends with common interests, like social matching?
R: Currently, the Rounds Facebook application is for friends only, however, members can find interesting people through a published snapshot stream. At a later stage, we will use our social matching mechanism (a tool that takes the members info from their profiles to match them up in random rounds with people that have common interests).
Members can also share their personal Rounds link (Each member gets a permanent link) through various social communities and invite people to call them on Rounds. On Rounds.com, members can search through members by different interests. They can also filter their search according to country, state and city.