Chatroulette has been talked about a lot over the past 30 days but for all the media mentions – ComScore reports that the site is still seeing less than 1 million unique US visitors per month. Site visitors are disproportionately young, male and also interested in gay and lesbian websites, the company says. Comscore believes that 960,000 people in the US visited the site in February, the month it blew up.
As social network analyst danah boyd puts it, Chatroulette is “a hugely controversial site, one that is prompting yet-another moral panic about youth engagement online.” Given all the controversy – wouldn’t you think that more than 1 million people in the US would have visited the site last month?
Boyd again on the up side of the site:
ChatRoulette reminds me a lot of the quirkiness of the Internet that I grew up with. Like when I was a teen trolling through chatrooms, ChatRoulette is filled with all sorts of weird people. And most users ignore most other users until they find someone they find interesting or compelling…I can’t tell you how formative it was for me to grow up talking to all sorts of random people online. So I feel pretty depressed every time I watch people flip out about the dangers of talking to strangers. Strangers helped me become who I was. Strangers taught me about a different world than what I knew in my small town. Strangers allowed me to see from a different perspective. Strangers introduced me to academia, gender theory, Ivy League colleges, the politics of war, etc. So I hate how we vilify all strangers as inherently bad. Did I meet some sketchballs on the Internet when I was a teen? DEFINITELY. They were weird; I moved on…I simultaneously am amused by ChatRoulette and depressed because I realize that so many folks would prefer to keep themselves and their teens/college-aged-kids sheltered rather than giving them a way of thinking about systems like this and teaching them to walk away when things get weird.
Given all that, the fact that less than a million people in the US visited the site last month seems like a real shame. Heck, if it’s naked men you’re concerned with – I just spent 30 minutes on the site and only saw 2 of them. Maybe that’s changing.
Google Trends says Chatroulette is most popular in Tunisia, followed by Norway, France, Chilli and Finland. Belgium, Turkey and Sweden send more traffic to the site than the US too. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, then. People in the US media find the site interesting, they talk about it all the time, but for some reason not a lot of people in the US are checking it out. ReadWriteWeb was bigger than Chatroulette last month, in fact. We’re not waiting by the phone for Jon Stewart to call, though.