Saurabh Arora

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There is no “back” button, only a “next” button

Noam Cohen has an interesting article in NYTimes questioning the premise that social networks are bringing us together. She tries to answer this using ChatRoulette as a case study. It’s an interesting read and recommended one if you have five minutes to spare. I have noted the main points below:

  • ChatRoulette as “a probabilistic community” that “relies on the transitory connections between users that cannot be maintained beyond the initial period of contact.”
  • Tim Hwang, co-author of a study of ChatRoulette describes it as “..a social network that’s not a social network.”
  • “It doesn’t spread in the way that social networks normally spread, through social connections and strong sustained communities,”
  • ChatRoulette may never move beyond faddish interest. Mr. Hwang, however, counts himself a ChatRoulette optimist, arguing that the service will inevitably become more like other social networks and lose its radical anonymity and chaotic spirit.

It’s hard to make out what the site will be in the next year or so. As Fred Wilson puts it – “Is this the adult friend finder 2.0 or Facebook 2.0?”

I believe ChatRoulette is too simplistic in it’s current avatar – doesn’t require a login, no friends to be added, no address book import, no software to be installed to chat. And has the component of “instant gratification” – you see a lot and move on if you don’t like the other person. However, the underlying principle of anonymity is what makes the site popular. This also means that community can not be monitored by it’s members and more often than not good members (genuinely interested in knowing others) will eventually leave the community, leaving behind a pile of not-so-good members. I have already left!

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Saurabh Arora is is crunching numbers at Faceboook. Previously, he got his hands dirty doing product development, online customer acquisition, product marketing and online revenue generation for one of the India's leading online job portal.

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