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Today, video chat with strangers online is very much a “thing.” In truth, it has existed for as long as live video has been available on the web, but the launch of Chatroulette in 2009 helped catapult the practice into a more mainstream audience.
Going into the next decade, Chatroulette is not your only option. If you want to have a random video chat online, many services exist. Better yet, they don’t come with the same controversial baggage as Chatroulette.
What Went Wrong at Chatroulette?
Chatroulette was in the headlines for the wrong reasons within months of its launch.
One study showed that one in eight spins would reveal a naked person and that 89 percent of users were male. In the days when parental controls were not as robust as they are today, the figures immediately set alarm bells ringing.
Here’s how the president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Emie Allen, described Chatroulette in March 2013:
“This is one of the worst faces of the internet that I’ve seen. It’s disconnecting human relationships rather than connecting them. [It’s] the last place parents want their kids to be. This is a huge red flag; this is extreme social networking. This is a place kids are going to gravitate to.”
Using Chatroulette to Talk to Strangers Today
In response to the early criticism, Chatroulette did clean up its act. The last few years have seen a steady increase in the number of safety measures in place.
Nudity is officially banned across the entire service. An algorithm filters out around 60 percent pornographic content. All users need to make an account to use the service. Users can be reported, and if you get more than three complaints in a fixed period of time, you receive a ban.
Sixty percent doesn’t sound like a lot. Considering more than 30 percent of the userbase is under 18, there is still cause for concern.
How to Video and Voice Chat With Strangers Online
So, what are the alternatives to Chatroulette? Some suffer from the same issues; others offer features that help to make it a safer environment for you to chat with random people.
Perhaps the best-known alternative to Chatroulette is Omegle. To try and help you find an interesting stranger to talk to, you can enter some optional interests before you start your conversation.
Omegle also offers a text-only mode, branded as Spy Mode. For people who don’t want to reveal themselves in public but are still looking for someone to chat with, it is ideal.
Unlike Chatroulette, however, Omegle does still have an unmoderated adult section. Its presence is concerning, but it does at least act as a way for people who want to engage in that stuff to keep it out of the main video chat section. You can make your own opinions—make sure you share them in the comments at the end.
Another notable app for video and voice chat with strangers online for free is LivU. According to its website, the company has paired together almost 20 billion users for a one-on-one chat.
LivU is also worth mentioning for its Android and iOS apps. Thanks to the possibilities offered by a smartphone, the apps provide some features that are not in the web app. They include real-time video filters (to add some fun into your chat) and a Beauty Effect feature that learns your features and then enhances them for the viewer.
The app offers instant messages (with supported chat history), a unified login across all your platforms, and filters for countries and gender.
FaceCast is a bit different from the other services we’ve discussed so far. This service is only available via the smartphone app; there is no web app you can use. The app is available on both Android and iOS.
The app will pair you with strangers for a conversation. If you get on well with the other person, you can start following them. Once you are following each other, you can dive back into a video chat at any point. The feature makes it slightly easier to use the app to build up meaningful friendships.
Other features include a GPS so you can find nearby strangers to talk to, a way to collate your best “Moments” and display them on your profile, and an unlimited number of video streams.
Some basic video editing tools are available. They include special effects, filters, stickers, music, and more.
Camsurf is more like LivU; it offers both a web app and a smartphone app.
Camsurf’s web app lets you dive in and start chatting straight away; you don’t need to make an account or enter other details. From an ease-of-use perspective, that’s a good thing. However, as we saw with Chatroulette, the practice invariably leads to problems.
If you use the Camsurf smartphone app, you can filter connections by language and location. Other than that, the web and smartphone versions are near-identical.
Chatspin is a web-only way to video chat with strangers. Like Omegle, there’s also a text chat facility available to anyone who does not want to turn on their mic or camera.
Once again, however, security features are minimal. You only need to enter your gender to find another person to talk to. There is no account creation process to work through.
We end with MeowChat. Like FaceCast, it is only available via either the Android or iOS smartphone app. The app is available in more than 130 countries around the world.
The service supports followers and fans. As such, you can see who are the most entertaining people to talk to in your local area, as endorsed by the other users.
Exercise Caution When Chatting With Strangers
If managed correctly, chatting with strangers online can be a fun way to get to know new people. However, you do need to exercise caution. Make sure no personal information is visible in the background of your video, don’t display valuable items, and make sure you are following the rules of the service you are using.
Image Credit: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos
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