When Americans first started exploring the online world en masse in the early 1990s, many of them headed for AOL’s chat rooms to connect with other curious strangers.
But since then, the appeal of random online encounters has faded with the rise of sites like Facebook, where most people tend to interact with people they already know. Now a few services are trying to recreate the spontaneity of that earlier era, adding a modern twist: live video chats. The latest of these, Airtime, made its debut on Tuesday. It garnered some extra attention because its founders, Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, who were behind the Napster music-sharing service, are well-known figures in the tech world.
At a celebrity-laden press event in downtown Manhattan, Mr. Parker lauded the advantages of video chat, saying it brought a human touch to Internet-based communication. He noted that it had gained momentum in recent years because of the proliferation of smartphones and computers with built-in cameras, paired with high-speed home and mobile broadband connections.
A study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that nearly 40 percent of teenagers who used the Internet participated in video chats. Read More