Airtime could give Facebook the kick it needs

Distancing itself from the oft-tawdry Chatroulette, the new service is poised to reinvigorate video chat.

By Minyanville Jun 7, 2012 4:10PM
The video-chat service Airtime launched this week on Facebook (FB), attracting keen interest from industry observers who wonder if this could be the killer app that revitalizes Zuckerberg's plateauing social network.

Founded by notorious Napster duo Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, Airtime works by accessing a user's Facebook account and webcam to connect to not only online friends, but to strangers as well. Various settings allows the service to "introduce" you to anyone with shared interests, friends, or location.

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The basic idea, of course, is not new. But, fairly or not, the startup has some worried about whether the video-chat platform could sink to sketchy territory.

That's due to the sordid history of the earlier Chatroulette, a service which also paired strangers via webcam to great initial success, but saw its enormous growth and popularity quickly devolve into an endless parade of naked men exposing their hardware.

But Airtime may not necessarily be destined to suffer the same debauched fate, the folks at ReadWriteWeb suggest. It could, instead, follow the path of the highly influential instant-messaging program ICQ.

As the first popular instant-messaging program of its kind, the program inspired AOL (AOL) to purchase the company that developed ICQ (Israeli-based Mirabilis) for $400 million in 1998. As the backbone of AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ helped AOL retain users who would have long abandoned the service, but stuck around to continue using the messaging app. While there were many other messaging programs available at the time, AOL Instant Messenger stayed popular for so long due to its easy-to-use design.

And that's what Airtime could be for Facebook.

Packed with tons of useful features, Airtime has the potential to be just as influential. For instance, it makes it very simple to share and discuss a Google (GOOG) YouTube video while watching it simultaneously. And down the pipeline, it's planning other social synchronization as well, such as being able to listen to your tunes together as well as group chat, TechCrunch reports. That your friends are already using Facebook gives it a huge boost, as opposed to something like Google+ Hangouts that, while beautifully designed, does not work as well when there's no one to talk to. Also, if the planned mobile app is done well and executed properly, competing services like Skype (MSFT) and Apple's (AAPL) FaceTime may well be in danger.

Right now, the only people testing out Airtime appear to be some early adopters and engineer types checking out the platform, but the important thing is that they are all clothed.

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Jun 7, 2012 5:23PM
If you people knew what I looked like half the time I'm on Facebook, you would not want to use this app.
Jun 7, 2012 5:13PM
The problem with all this stuff, is it's "cool" but it doesn't make any "real" money.
Jun 7, 2012 6:22PM
more apps in disguise for the new era of web police... don't let yourself be fooled peeps, You're being monitored at this very second.

Don't believe me..  fine, do the research yourself.

Jun 8, 2012 1:09PM
Greaat. now fb can watch you throught your webcam. spying at its best i guess.
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