The Decline and Fall of Chatroulette

A few months ago, Chatroulette was the hottest thing on the Internet.

Everyone from college students to famous musicians was logging on to the random-video-chat service to see what it was about. The New York Times asked whether it embodied “a glimpse into a surreal future, a turn in the direction of the Internet.” Social-media researchers analyzed the service, and Jon Stewart lampooned the media’s obsession with it — as well as the prevalence of perverts on the site.

How times change.

Chatroulette debuted a new version of the site Monday — only to be roundly panned by technology watchers. The site seems to have made mostly cosmetic changes, and even those confused users rather than making for a better experience. The user’s image is no longer displayed next to the other person’s image and is instead initially shown as a small inset in the main video screen. Users can now resize those images and move them around. A single gray bar — without any descriptive text — now serves as the “next” button.

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