As with most early voyages, Chatroulette pilots are a little clumsy. You’ll find ridiculous costumes, awkward staredowns, and empty screens. And if it isn’t obvious, the site’s not exactly a family affair (though there is an option to report offensive or inappropriate material). It may take 40 or 50 skips to find someone worth talking to, but the panorama of human images you’ll see in the meantime is entirely original.

In the end, Chatroulette may sink into the cavity of most Internet phenomena. For now, however, its format could teach us a lot about ourselves and the way we’ve come to organize the world around us. Staring blankly into the eyes of a chat partner, either a rough Midwestern analog of myself or some lady in an office in Rio de Janeiro, it seems both strange and familiar to wonder what we might have in common.

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