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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: azar, real time video chat, video chat
Companies: azar, chatrouliette, hyperconnect, match group

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  • identicon
    christenson, 17 May 2021 @ 4:00pm

    Seems like a moderation/pointing problem

    Remember when Google beat out every other search service not by not listing sites, but by figuring out a better page ranking algorithm?

    Seems like for a random chat connection, you want to group users, and point the raunchy(fornicating with lettuce?? Damn!) to other raunchy users who will appreciate the joke, and point the relatively prissy (you mean all that skin is a turn-off without some emotional connection??) to other relatively prissy users, unless they opt into the raunchy. Hey, we all have moods!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2021 @ 7:47pm

    Charging money turns it into another and there are free alternatives out there.

    This is definitely a cheaper way to socialize.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 18 May 2021 @ 7:41am


      Charging money turns it into another

      Except this doesn't really sound like a dating app to me. Is that its intent? I could see straight women filtering to only women to reduce the chance of getting a gross dude on the other end.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        christenson, 18 May 2021 @ 9:57am

        Re: Re:

        I would definitely want a "this is a gross dude" rating available on my social app... because being gross (yes, very subjective) should have consequences.

        And yeah, cheaper alternatives exist... but... given the nutty way youtube, and now twitch are handling copyright and streams, it's not such an unthinkable thought as to have a platform where the users pay and are therefore the ones pulling the strings.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2021 @ 12:22pm

    I may be in the minority here, but I consider the possibility that some moderator could be eavesdropping on my video chat to be far more disturbing than the chance of being connected to a user doing something gross. The latter problem is easily solved by disconnecting, after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.