Friday FYI: The Napster Boys Met in a Chatroom and Now They’re Revolutionizing Online Video Chat|
Remember the early days of dial-up AOL, when you could anonymously enter chat rooms and talk to people around the world who shared similar interests? While I fondly recall several heated debates within the “Spice Girls for Life” chat room on whether Posh Spice or Baby Spice was cooler, most of my spontaneous chat room experiences were frightening. More often than not, the other person in the chat who I innocently thought shared my young adolescent passion for pop music was really a creepy man who was recently featured on To Catch a Predator.
Unlike my experience, some interesting friendships and ideas were born in chat rooms. Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning (the guys who made that Napster thing), originally met in an online chat room 15 years ago. They bonded over their shared interest in computer security and hacking and went on to create one of the music industry’s biggest nightmares.
Their latest project, Airtime, was created with the desire to bring serendipity back to the Internet by using online video to allow people with common interests to connect online. To use Airtime, users login with their Facebook account and can chat with their current friends or meet people who share similar interests. To prevent users from being paired up with someone who is in their birthday suit, Airtime has built in moderators to help keep tabs on any inappropriate exchanges.
At first, I was unsure why I would ever want to video-chat with an absolute stranger, but I might just be scarred from the early AOL chat room days. With Airtime’s ability to match users based on interests, it has the potential to provide a platform for young professionals to network or connect with mentors. For example, if I have Levo League listed as one of my interests, I would be paired up with an intelligent, motivated young professional in a video chat and could learn from someone who is in a professional role that interests me. On Airtime’s website their slogan is “Create shared experiences with people you know, and people you want to know.” Just like Parker and Fanning met in a chat room years ago, it will be interesting to see if any new ideas are formed when people are randomly brought together through Airtime.