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Chatroulette is back, but is it less raunchy?

Doug Gross
Video chat site Chatroulette appears to be back after promising improvements and going offline for a week.
Video chat site Chatroulette appears to be back after promising improvements and going offline for a week.
  • Chatroulette back online after a week, but few changes are apparent
  • The random-video site offers anonymous chat but has been often used for lewd behavior
  • Teen founder promised "renewed and updated" site when it went down last week
  • Analysts predict adult behavior will keep the site from achieving mainstream success

(CNN) -- Chatroulette, the controversial website that offers random video chat with strangers, was back Monday after being down for more than a week for promised improvements.

Based on early peeks at the revamped site, however, it didn't appear to have upgraded its bare-bones appearance much. And if there was an effort to stop people from using the site for ... ahem ... self-pleasure, it didn't seem to have worked.

"As far as content goes, well, suffice to say that it took 4 full minutes of refreshing to get a screenshot without a penis in it," social-media blog Mashable was reporting Monday morning. "Yes, some things never change."

CNN was having difficulty getting Chatroulette to load Monday morning, suggesting that fans, or the curious, were flocking back to the site or that it had been taken back down.

On Chatroulette, users with a webcam are paired at random with other people for live video chats. Both parties can then choose to strike up a conversation, or either can click "next" to move on to someone else.

The look of the site, aside from its video windows, is notoriously spare, and that doesn't appear to have changed on the new version.

For some reason, the oft-used "next" button was unmarked, but other tweaks were hard to find.

"In short, it's the same old Chatroulette," wrote Martin Bryant on the Next Web blog. Bryant said half the chatters he encountered Monday morning were engaged in lewd behavior.

Last week, the site's founder, a Russian teenager named Andrey Ternovskiy, posted a note on a newly inactive site saying that "experiment #1 is over" and that "a renewed and updated version" would be back up in one day

It was unclear whether the site, as it appeared Monday, was the final product of the planned upgrade. There didn't appear to be any note or other acknowledgement of changes to the site.

Efforts to reach Ternovskiy and Chatroulette on Monday were unsuccessful.

Chatroulette became a minor web phenomenon last winter and drew a flurry of media attention for creative ways people were using the site -- and its often pornographic nature.

Some users have reported fun and interesting conversations sparked on the site. Users have been known to dress in costumes or stage elaborate pranks for their chat partners.

Singer/songwriter Ben Folds used the site during some of his concerts, writing impromptu songs for the people who popped up on a projection of his computer screen.

But shortly after the site launched in November, Internet analysts began predicting that users exposing themselves online would be the death of Chatroulette.

Even a recent viral-marketing trailer for the horror movie "The Last Exorcism" played off of Chatroulette's reputation for salacious activity by showing an actress unbuttoning her blouse suggestively before transforming into a demonic beast.

Late last month, Ternovskiy promised efforts to clean up the site, saying he is out to create a "perfect video world" where people can talk across national borders and beyond social cliques and demographics.

He posted a note on the site saying that new efforts were starting to track down, and possibly arrest, video-chat flashers.

"With the help of a few good developers we've started collecting information, such as IP addresses, logs and screen captures of offenders who actually break US/UN laws by broadcasting innapropriate [sic] content in a specific situations," he wrote.

"I hope that with help of a Criminal law we can finally get the problem out of our shoulders and get existing organizations which usually solve these kind of problems to help us."

Ternovskiy also created separate "adult" channels on Chatroulette for users 16 or older. But the site offered no way to verify the ages of its users.


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