College Kids: ViDoBounce Wants to Be the New Chatroulette

Is it time for a Chatroulette revival? ViDoBounce thinks so, and it’s taking a lesson or two from Facebook to differentiate itself from the many Chatroulette clones already out there.

Arizona-based founder Michael Nana used his own service today to video chat with me, and he told me that the main motivation for building the service was to make it easier to meet people in college — a world very familiar to Nana, who is only 20 years old himself.

ViDoBounce users have to register with an existing Facebook or Twitter account, and the site asks them during the registration about the school they’re attending. The site then loads an interface that’s vaguely familiar to anyone who has ever tried Chatroulette or any of its clones, complete with a two-camera view, a chat field and a button to “bounce” to the next person.

There are a few notable differences: Users can elect to only chat with someone from their college, or someone living close by. Chat partners can be added to a contact list, and contacts that are online can be pinged via IM or invited to video chat. ViDoBounce also uses its own email messaging system, and Nana told me that he eventually wants to add profile pages that could contain more service-specific information than a generic Facebook profile. For now, users can simply click through to their chat partner’s Facebook or Twitter page.

There are a few technical quirks still to be worked out, including video and audio quality. Nana said his team of three developers is working on this right now. However, the biggest challenge for ViDoBounce will be to attract a big enough user base. Right now, the site has only about 350 registered users, Nana said, most of which come from his own college. During my brief time of testing, we were the only users on the service.

Attracting and sustaining enough simultaneous users is a challenge that other Chatroulette clones have struggled with as well. Some of the sites that popped up immediately after Chatroulette exploded early last year have experimented with Facebook integration and friends lists, and Chatroulette itself briefly toyed with the idea of local chats. However, most of these sites never attracted a large enough user base, and quite a few have since shut down.

Nana believes that ViDoBounce’s focus on college communities will help to avoid that fate. To prove his point, he not only pointed to the original Facebook setup, but also the anonymous flirting site LikeALittle. “Anything that helps people to have fun in college can be successful,” he told me.