Is The Future Of Chatroulette Chat-Free?

Chatroulette has recently been stepping things up in order to secure their spot in the ranks of popular social websites, adding new features and giving the site a facelift. But is the next step in the revamping of Chatroulette doing away with the chat? Chatroulette’s founder, Andrey Ternowsky, told NewTeeVee that the future of the site might focus entirely on telepresence and do away with text chat completely.

A couple of weeks ago, Chatroulette added a couple of new features to the site – Localroulette and Channelroulette – in order to offer users more options and give the site a boost. With Localroulette and Channelroulette, users have the option to meet other users in their local area or users that share similar interests. However, the launch of these new features, which are now called simply “Local” and “Channels” is only the beginning. NewTeeVee’s Janko Roettgers reported that Ternowsky is working on entirely revamping the Chatroulette experience. He said, “Right now we are carefully testing it and slowly launching some of its future features.”

One of the most glaringly different aspects of the new, revamped Chatroulette will be that the text chat will be removed. Roettgers pointed out that people use the text chat feature a lot in Chatroulette. However, Ternowsky told him that, “There are lots of text chats out there. Nothing new about it.” Ternowsky wants to try something different by taking the chat away. Something that, “is certainly…awkward and unusual, which is good.”

But my question is, what is Chatroulette without the chat? The site already has had a lot of problems with exhibitionists exposing themselves to random strangers. Without the opportunity to communicate via chat, these exhibitionists should have even more of a field day! Ternowsky came up with the idea of themed channels as a way to try to keep the exhibitionists in their own groups and communities. However, I have a hard time believing that this will really keep “the pants-less” away from the regular Joes and I think Ternowsky probably agrees with me. He understands that sometimes users end up chatting with exhibitionists or spammers, but he said that, “For users, it’s a part of a game. Since it’s a roulette, sometimes you can lose the game.” And by losing, of course, he means ending up chatting with someone or something undesirable.

Let’s also take into account that there are a lot of people who are timid about chatting with others live and feel much more comfortable typing their thoughts to strangers than engaging in actual voice-to-voice conversation. Text chat is something of a security blanket in the world of Chatroulette. Other people may be able to see you, but if they can’t hear your voice then it somehow feels a little more safe and secure. I think that, by taking away the text chat feature, Chatroulette will only be hurting themselves and losing a lot of users who like the comfort of being able to type to their random new friends, rather than speak out loud.

When Ternowsky says the new site will be “awkward and unusual” he is probably right. Being face to face with strangers with only the tools of video and audio for communication, users will have to be a lot bolder and a lot more secure to make things work. It could be great, but maybe not for the same types of users that currently patronize the site. Do you see a future for Chatroulette with no text chat? What do you think about the new direction that Ternowsky is trying to take the site? Think it will be a success?