Sean Parker: Chatroulette Could Surface More Interesting Users, Girls

Napster co-founder and early Facebook advisor Sean Parker said there’s an opportunity for Chatroulette to introduce one-to-many video chat as well as a model that would help separate more interesting and engaging users from those that very quickly get “nexted.”

In a discussion with and Reid Hoffman at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, Parker said that he spends a lot of time thinking about live video. And because “no one’s nailed live video,” Parker believes there’s an opportunity for Chatroulette — which he advises — to differentiate itself with new features that could set it apart from other live video applications.

Parker said live video on platforms like Skype and Facebook “never got figured out,” and other live video startups formed in the mold of YouTube (s GOOG) didn’t work either. That kind of startup, which is based on search and discovery, he said, “just leads to a porn app.”

On the other hand, he said, “There was something interesting with Chatroulette, to just throw you into a conversation. There‚Äôs no adverse signaling,” Parker said. Even so, there are things the startup could do to create a more engaging experience for users. One thing that Parker suggested Chatroulette could do is move from a one-to-one video chat application to a one-to-many platform.

Parker also said there is an opportunity for the site to surface “more interesting” people to the top, which is one way it could fight its so-called “penis problem.” By increasing the visibility of people who don’t get “nexted” or have other users quickly pass over them, Chatroulette could discourage users from exposing themselves on the service. By highlighting more engaging users, it could also potentially increase traffic on the site.

“Over time the more interesting people would rise to the top and more traffic would be driven to that,” Parker said.

Despite an early meteoric rise as a fascinating Internet phenomenon, Chatroulette has seen its traffic wane in recent months as users are driven away from the preponderance of perverts that have overtaken the site. To deal with this, the site has introduced new specialized channels, in part as a way to help users with common interests — for instance, “SEX” — to more easily find each other. It has also threatened users who expose themselves to minors on the site with police action, blocking and capturing the IP addresses of offenders and sharing them with the police.

With reporting from Katie Fehrenbacher.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Report: The Consumer Video Chat Market, 2010-2015 (subscription required)