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article imageNapster co-founders launch Airtime, a video chat service

By Leigh Goessl     Jun 5, 2012 in Internet
A new video website, Airtime, has just been launched by Napster creators Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning. The company's debut kicked off June 5 in New York City.
Digital Journal reported in March that the duo, which once transformed the concept of music sharing, were teaming up again for another venture. At the time not much was known other than Airtime was in development to be a social video website.
Now that Airtime is live, much more is known, it is a video chat site. According to TechCrunch, "Airtime puts you onstage with a friend or matches you with an interesting stranger," describing it as a "more fun version of Skype." It is one-on-one communication, virtual face-to-face, a way to "re-humanize the Internet," as the publication noted (reportedly this will expand to include groups at some point down the road).
Business Week reported how Fanning and Parker came together once again to put their stamp on the social web. It all started with a service called "Chatroulette."
In 2009, a teen from Russia named Andrey Ternovskiy had created Chatroulette, an online video service that brought people together on the web. The service enabled users to chat with random people across the globe via video. If an individual wanted to exit the conversation, all they had to do was simply hit "next" when they wanted to move on to another discussion.
Fanning was reportedly enamored by the concept of Chatroulette. “For the first time, you could actually surf people,” he said.
For a time, Fanning had mentored Ternovskiy, with Parker kicking in some funding and financial advice. The concept was working beautifully and the site really took off, that is until people started using the service to expose themselves, and random nudity popping up via video was becoming a problem.
However, Ternovskiy was steadfast in his belief users should maintain anonymity, and the nudity on the network increased. The company faded out of the limelight sometime during 2010.
Fanning hooked back up with Parker to create a new video chat service, but one more aligned to today's social web using the "compelling" aspects of Chatroulette, but attempting to eliminate the negative attributes. For the past two years, the duo has steadily been building Airtime, along with the $33 million they'd raised from several high profile investors; Parker and Fanning even made their first acquisition before Airtime's launch.
"Chatroulette pushed the boundaries, and a lot of people missed that or didn’t care because they just saw the negative outcomes,” Parker told Business Week.
To use Airtime, there is no installation involved, it runs in a browser and uses Facebook's platform. Reportedly mobile apps are in the works for those on-the-go. It is perhaps not surprising the service is linked into Facebook. Parker was the social network's first president and has a long history with the company, still having an investment to this day.
The way Airtime is set up, it eliminates the anonymity factor and all user information on Facebook will import into Airtime. The data that has been collected, including "likes", location, job, interests, will then match people up who may have similar interests. People can choose to interact with their Facebook friends or a random stranger. By taking out the anonymous users, Airtime's founders say it's easier for the new network to weed out those who violate terms of service or laws.
“One of the great things about Facebook is that it gives you accountability,” Parker told Business Week.
The network also seems to address sharing too much information with strangers, reportedly names and identifying information is hidden when strangers are chatting, unless the user chooses to share.
The launch of Airtime was filled with a lot of fanfare, complete with plenty of celebrities; it all took place in New York City this morning.
If you want a peek, Parker and Fanning have also released a promotion video on YouTube:
More about Napster, shawn fanning, sean parker, Airtime, video chat