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Talk.io is a chat service which represents a Polish text-based alternative to the controversial video-chat service Chatroulette. Founded 5 months ago, the service now attracts 500,000 unique users and 25,000 regular users monthly.
Talk.io is actually a text-based service, actually, so it’s more like connecting with strangers in a chat room. Upon visiting the main site, you’re presented with a “wall” of people with whom you can chat. Users do not need to create an account to chat, but they can choose to connect with Facebook.
In terms of backing, I was told by Tomasz Dominiak, a project manager at Polish seed fund Who Else that his firm were the ones who developed this project. I was not told a funding amount, but they also produced projects Quadro and reclipper. In terms of plans for the project, I’m told that current plans for the project include the development of mobile apps. Dominiak expects that an Android app will be released by the end of April and that an app for iOS will be out by the end of the following month.
Chatroulette sparked a lot of interest when it came out a few years ago (after being created by a Russian high school student, incidentally) and I believe that it was partly because people were quite curious about having video chats with complete strangers. The randomness of it was simply a big draw. However, two points could really be made about it. The untamed, for lack of a better word, nature of the service meant that it was ripe for abuse. Without having to register, people could easily post offensive material and the service could present a real problem. What could be a fun way to meet people could be really ruined. Dominiak told me that his team is well-aware of this issue and that they have strict rules against the showing offensive material. There’s a team which monitors the service at all times to make sure that reported users are blocked (we spotted some x-rated profile pictures yesterday so follow the link at your risk) and that people can basically enjoy themselves without issue. I’m told that users can also make it so that they don’t accept invitations from anonymous people and that they are able to hide their locations.
I suppose that what’s more appealing about Chatroulette is that people can select the person with whom they’d like to chat. It’s not completely random, as Chatroulette is, which might offer users a pleasant experience and may encourage them to stay.
In terms of competition, Talk.io lists Airtime, Skout, Facebook, and the aforementioned Chatroulette. One of the concerns I have is that, although Chatroulette created quite a stir initially, the novelty of it later disappeared. I think that a point to made about social networks is that people tend to eventually get bored and begin to search for the next cool thing.
What is also unclear is how this service will be making money, since even the dating services with a clear objective of matching people for real-time experiences struggle to get to the critical mass without a sizable advertisement budget but clearly ad-based revenue model may be a possibility if the traffic increases in a dramatic way.
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