Airtime fails to take off yet, questioning why

When the new video chat service Airtime was launched last week it was to a blaze of publicity with a flood of celebrities pushing the new innovation from the founders of Napster. If the size of the Airtime video phone app launch was anything to go by then the new-style cleaner version of ChatRoulette certainly should have taken off in a big way but so far it has failed to soar and we’re questioning why, although of course it’s still early days.

The idea from Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker involves a less anonymous and more upmarket version of ChatRoulette, which soon became an attraction for dubious users and pornography. The concept of pairing Airtime with a Facebook profile was seen as a good way of keeping it as intended, a way for strangers to engage and perhaps become friends. Airtime allows Facebook users to chat with someone without having to reveal names unless you choose to and uses shared interests as a way to connect people.

According to The Washington Post though, most of the early adopters of Airtime seem to be men while the format is described as like “speed dating for friends.” However after using the service for several days the Post has met with many empty chairs while using the experience and had little success with connecting with anyone with genuine shared interests, although the writer is open to the idea of still making that connection.

The launch of Airtime was massive with over 100 reporters from different media sources attending and seven stars making their presence felt at the event. However after a week of availability a report today on BetaBeat tells of figures from AppData showing that only 150,000 people have tried Airtime so far. Because of the connection with Facebook the method for finding how many people have so far used Airtime is deemed accurate.

Although initially 150,000 users in a week may sound credible it’s really not great going considering the A-list celebs plugging Airtime at the launch. As BetaBeat points out, there’s no download to use the app, just a login to Facebook so you’d have thought the simplicity of using Airtime would have attracted more users, especially in the first wave of publicity and particularly as almost 10,000 Google news articles have been posted about it. Of course Facebook already has its own video chat service and also the popularity of SocialCam are both likely to have negatively impacted the amount of people checking out Airtime.

Another report, this time on Cnet, contains a wish list of improvements that could be made to Airtime. After initially loving Airtime the writer feels he cannot recommend it just yet although says it has potential. Some of the inclusions on the wish list are mobile apps, which certainly makes sense, a non-Flash version, interface to Skype, a clearer way to use a friends-only mode, multi-party conferencing, and also the desire not to be monitored when using Airtime. Airtime points out though, “Images are only monitored by a human if they are flagged for review for being potentially inappropriate and a potential safety issue.”

We’d like to hear your thoughts on Airtime. Have you tried using the new video chat service yet? If so what have you managed to have some meaningful or engaging discussions with other users? Maybe you tried it out but weren’t impressed? Let us know with your comments.


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