Can Chatroulette Get It Up Again?

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You probably haven’t noticed (unless you’ve been reading TechCrunch), but Chatroulette is down. A message on the live, random video chat site says that “experiment #1 is over now” and that a completely new version of the site will launch later today.

Chatroulette took the world by storm in the beginning of the year, showing amazing viral growth as the communications service took off. But quickly it was overrun by pervs, and it’s traffic went limp. And now the sense even among Chatroulette’s early supporters is that it blew its early opportunity.

Many of those who embraced Ternovskiy early have already written him off. Even adviser, and Napster founder, Shawn Fanning is said to have washed his hands of the site.

At meetup in New York City two weeks ago about how to make things go viral on the Web, Union Square VC Fred Wilson (who initially helped bring Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy to the U.S. over from Moscow) asked 4Chan founder Christopher Poole (aka, Moot) and Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti why they thought Chatroulette suddenly fell off a cliff.

“I think it declined because of all the dicks,” responded Peretti. He was speaking both literally and figuratively. Chatroulette had a penis problem in that casual visitors were quickly confronted with videos of naked men, who ruined the site for everyone who wasn’t there for porn. 4Chan’s Moot, said that the issue was that Chatroulette didn’t partition off the bad behavior fast enough. Moot said of Ternovskiy: “He wanted to add rooms, but was really slow to act on that. The dicks thing made it so that casuals wouldn’t use the site.”

Indeed, Ternovskiy did add rooms, but it was too little too late. Google Trends for Websites shows the site peaked in March at above 500,000 unique visitors per day, and then fell to below half that by June (see chart above). By the time Ternovskiy added different channels in mid-July that helped to stem the decline. ComScore shows a similar trend: a peak in April of 8.2 million visitors a month, down to 6.1 million in June, when it started to level off.

So are there second chances in Silicon Valley (where Ternovskiy is now toiling away), or is Chatroulette tainted by its early infamy? Stay tuned. We’ll soon find out.

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