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‘Bored’ billionaire Sean Parker launches Chatroulette-style app for Facebook

Published: June 6, 2012 | 6:08 am
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Mark Zuckerberg makes a surprise appearance on Facebook's new video chat service. Airtime.
Mark Zuckerberg makes a surprise appearance on new video
chat service,Airtime.

Billionaire Sean Parker, the first investor and founding president of Facebook, said he’s “bored” by the social network. That’s partly why he introduced a new service today that allows users to chat by video and share files with friends and strangers.

His partner is Shawn Fanning, who created Napster with Parker in 1999 when they were teenagers.

During a star-studded event in New York that included rapper Snoop Dog, actor Jim Carrey, comedian Jimmy Fallon and singer Alicia Keys, Parker showed off Airtime, a video site connected to the Facebook platform that includes a “next” button to find a random chat partner, similar to the once-hot online video service Chatroulette.

Sean Parker, Shawn Fanning and Jimmy Fallon at the New York launch of video chat service Airtime.
Sean Parker, Shawn Fanning and Jimmy Fallon at the
New York launch of video chat service Airtime.

Though similar to ChatRoulette, Airtime features Facebook connectivity and other additions such as the ability to watch YouTube videos together.

There’s also a slightly greater chance of running into celebrities. That became clear on Tuesday, when New York artist “Ronen.V” tried the service — and immediately got one Mark Zuckerberg on the other side of his screen.

Ronen was excited to meet the Facebook founder, but by the looks of things in the screenshot above, Zuckerberg was not quite as thrilled. “After like 30 seconds he NEXTed me,” Ronen told Betabeat.

A screenshot of Airtime in action.
A screenshot of Airtime in action.

Randomised video is outside Facebook’s area of interest, said Parker. He said the social network already has its hands full building its service. Parker and Fanning, who said they met on an internet chat, wanted to make it easy for friendships to begin by connecting people who have shared Facebook interests.

“Facebook isn’t helping you make new connections, Facebook doesn’t develop new relationships, Facebook is just trying to be the most accurate model of your social graph,” Parker said at the event. “There’s a part of me that feels somewhat bored by all of this. There’s no room for serendipity.”

The Airtime launch event in New York didn’t quite go as planned, with demonstrations of the technology failing to work.

At one point, Carrey wasn’t aware that the video cut off and continued a performance backstage, before he was called to come on.

“This is not how it’s really operating, I swear to God,” said comedian Olivia Munn after several delays, before saying she doesn’t believe in God.

Parker said after the event that the actors helped ensure that even if things didn’t go according to plan, people would still have fun.

“In the event that things went horribly wrong, which they did, everyone was a comedian, everyone was improvising,” he said in an interview.


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