People enjoy random online encounters, if they didn’t, chat rooms wouldn’t have been so huge, and neither would ChatRoulette (though the naked dude thing killed it). The two gentlemen that started the revolutionary music sharing service Napster are looking to capitalize on this apparently inherent human trait.
Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning have taken a concept inspired by ChatRoulette, eliminated the dicks that ruined the experience, and fine tuned the match-making process to connect people worldwide in ways we never imagined. Networking and meeting new people is huge in the 21st century; instead of chance encounters out in public or going to events, Parker and Fanning hope you’ll hop on AirTime to connect with friends of friends, or random people with one of your tens, hundreds or thousands of similar interests.
Run as an app through Facebook, Airtime is instantly going to be accessible for free to nearly 1 billion people. Unfortunately, a large number of Facebook’s user base is anti-socialites, content to hang behind their computer screens, spurning real human interaction. Who knows though, maybe Airtime could become the prescription to help some of these people overcome their anxiety, and ‘get out and meet new people.’
With nearly $40 million in VC funding, this project is definitely a risk. A study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project discovered that 40% of teenagers online used video chat; but is the world ready for video chat to ascend to daily social acceptance? In the superficial world we live it, it may be difficult.
People might not get in front of the camera unless they look absolutely perfect. Similarly, we’ve become expert multi-taskers, which becomes difficult on video chat without being rude. Then you’ve got the competition factor; can AirTime jump in and compete with the tried and true Skype, or the innovative group chat feature offered by Google Hangouts? Does AirTime offer a unique enough product offering?
It’s going to be a challenge, but that’s how Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning like it. The service utilizes facial recognition, periodic screenshots, and an intelligent rating system to curb abuse; laying the infrastructure to make it a game changer. There’s a large amount of potential for AirTime to become a big profit driver and an innovator in how you can make money online.
Advertising is the tried and true cash cow. Since the program matches people based on their unique interests, it’s going to encourage users of AirTime and Facebook alike, to trim down their pages and expose their true interests. Companies will pay absurd amounts of money for targeted ads that they know are going into the brains of the right consumers. It might be smart for businesses to offer interactive games within the video chat that are fun, but branded.
AirTime obviously can’t charge just to video chat as several competitors offer that for free, but the company has discussed offering pay services that allow you to distort yourself with silly additions. One innovative way of generating buzz and profits may be to use the service in conjunction with LinkedIn or Monster as a way to connect prospective employees with employers. AirTime could broker a ‘virtual job fair’ where employees would list their qualifications and get instantly connected, face to face, with a chance for an important interview. Profits could be made up front, or based on jobs filled. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities.
While AirTime is going to create a great avenue for people to make new friends and expand their reach worldwide, it will definitely come at the loss of privacy. Your personal interests and characteristics will be exposed for AirTime and the world to see. The constant security screenshots taken by AirTime means that you probably don’t want your wife or girlfriend to be entertaining you while you’re on a business trip. With the incredible surge in hacking attempts lately, there’s little to protect your information from seeping out into the world and leaving you exposed. There’s a risk-reward with all new technology, and we’ll see where AirTime fits in soon.
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