Today, Sean and Shawn – two people that irrevocably shook the music industry as we knew it more than a decade ago – launched their latest venture together. Named Airtime, this is their take on Chatroulette meets Facebook … well and does other things as well, I guess.
Given the hype around the launch in New York that was reportedly filled with as many glitches as celebrities, I decided to give it a spin today. The ability to connect via Facebook and have the online friends list right there ready to make a call was an easy experience. It was also enticing/tempting to play with the Chatroulette features of Airtime to see which random person it picks – someone nearby, or someone matching the interests on my profile, or friends of friends. Unlike Chatroulette, the experience was indeed one of meeting random people that are interested in having a conversation, than other things that the other portal is known for. But this might just be because it just got launched, so lets see how it goes from here.
The ability to “Next” someone and move on to another person was pretty interesting as well. I guess Airtime takes you from the world of the cold and impersonal “Like” to a more personal, easy video chat platform, but at the same time gives you the option to Next away if your few seconds of interest have been sated. They do have some basic checking around how many people you Next away before you get to wait for 30 seconds and try again. Apparently there are filters that prevent misuse of the service as well – though they don’t seem to work perfectly just yet.
The UI seems to need a lot more work. Starting from a color scheme that makes it hard to see most of the UI elements, to the inconspicuous colors and positions of the call buttons, it looks like something that is still being baked. Being flash-based lets them deploy this quickly I guess, but the video quality leaves a lot to be desired. Also if you go back and update your Likes on Facebook, Airtime doesn’t seem to automatically sync back and update its profile of yours. Video sharing is messed up as well – I could share a video with you and if you start sharing one while watching mine that starts playing too, with the audio playing over the earlier clip. But it does make it easy to share videos, so that’s a good start.
All in all, a good start for a service, one must say. The hook of common interest will make it an interesting player in terms of getting more engaging conversations going between acquaintances or strangers, but it remains to be seen how the service can save itself from the Chatroulette direction that it can easily take, given that the founders seem to say that they do want to keep it different. The Skype integration into Facebook always seemed like a hesitant afterthought, more so since the Microsoft acquisition, so this might catch on pretty quickly as the cool thing to do with video while on Facebook.
Did you give it a spin yet? What were your thoughts?