South Korean Real-Time Video 'Social Discovery' App Might Be The New ChatRoulette — If It Can Keep Out The Lettuce Fornicators
from the because-content-moderation-is-easy,-right? dept
Remember ChatRoulette? Eleven years ago, the Web site that pairs random people together for webcam interactions was as hot as today’s Clubhouse. A 2010 piece in New York Magazine has a perfect distillation of the ChatRoulette experience at the time:
There was a man who wore a deer head and opened every conversation with “What up DOE!?” A guy from Sweden was reportedly speed-drawing strangers’ portraits. Someone with a guitar was improvising songs for anyone who’d give him a topic. One man popped up on people’s screens in the act of fornicating with a head of lettuce. Others dressed like ninjas, tried to persuade women to expose themselves, and played spontaneous transcontinental games of Connect Four. Occasionally, people even made nonvirtual connections: One punk-music blogger met a group of people from Michigan who ended up driving eleven hours to crash at his house for a concert in New York. And then, of course, fairly often, there was this kind of thing: “I saw some hot chicks then all of a sudden there was a man with a glass in his butthole.”
As a Techdirt post explored, more recently ChatRoulette has been trying to find a way to keep the best elements of the idea without it degenerating into a peepshow for exhibitionists and worse. A real-time video meetup service from South Korea, founded in 2014 and called Azar, is grappling with the same issue. An article on the Rest of the World site explains:
Because it’s an app rather than a website, it benefits from tying users to their smartphones, making it harder for banned accounts to come back online under new names. The company says it also uses artificial intelligence to moderate inappropriate content and allows users to easily report violations themselves.
As an approach, it seems to be popular with users: there have been over 540 million cumulative downloads. Its owners claim it is the “highest grossing 1-on-1 live video chat app globally”. Here’s where the money comes from:
Much of that revenue is likely driven by in-app purchases. When users tap through Azar, they?re greeted by a barrage of prompts encouraging them to buy Gems — tokens used to acquire everything from stickers and virtual gifts to extra daily matches. Users can also pay $14.99 to gain “VIP” status, which allows them to narrow matches down according to stated gender and country (the cost may vary in different markets).
In February, the original owner Hyperconnect was bought for $1.725 billion by Match Group. The latter already owns many similar dating services, including Tinder, Match, Meetic, OKCupid, Hinge, Pairs, PlentyOfFish and OurTime. One reason for the acquisition (pdf) may be that 77% of Hyperconnect’s users are in Asia, with only 17% in Europe, and 6% in the US. An obvious move for Match Group would be to promote Hyperconnect’s products outside Asia, where there seems plenty of room for growth. Azar may not be well-known in the West today, but that could change if its app-based approach and AI moderation allows it to catch on like ChatRoulette a decade ago, but without the lettuce fornicators.