Napster founders launch ‘clean’ video chat service

The co-founders of Napster, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, have launched their new venture: a video chat service that works over Facebook.

An awful lot like Chatroulette – but without the relentless self-pleasuring – Airtime is a video chat service that also matches up strangers on the basis of location and shared interests.

Little green-shaded boxes show interests that participants have in common, and an ‘applause meter’ allows them to rate one another.

“There’s something exciting about bringing spontaneity to the internet,” says Parker.

“All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know. That wasn’t always the case. If it weren’t for the internet, Fanning and I would have never become friends. As we move from a social graph to an interest graph, there are great possibilities for our world. That’s what we’re trying to tap into with Airtime.”

When talking to strangers, users remain anonymous until they decide to reveal themselves – and can click a ‘Next’ button when they fancy a change. It’s possible to watch Youtube videos together, with the founders promising more shared content soon.

“Airtime is a service that does everything it can to help you find the people that you should know, and then guide your conversations

further. These are connections that wouldn’t be possible in the real world,” says Fanning.

“If you look at this from an idealistic standpoint, Airtime is something only technology can facilitate. And it is finally possible with the ubiquity of webcams, broadband connections and a highly developed identity layer. We’ve only scratched the surface with what the internet can do today.”

Unfortunately, the launch of the service didn’t go entirely without a hitch. After a series of problems with connection and microphones, the founders abandoned a demonstration and ended up playing a video instead.

The founders say they’re doing their best to make sure that Airtime doesn’t go the way of Chatroulette. Facial recognition software aims to make sure that faces are visible on screen – although it doesn’t stop other body parts appearing as well.