Through an article in french newspaper Libération, I discovered yesterday the web site chatroulette. The concept is pretty cool and addictive: it instantaneously connects through video and text-based chat two totally random visitors of the site. You don't need an account, you can disconnect at any time, the other party can disconnect at any time. You can stream video and/or audio, as you wish. You can be video-connected to someone on the other side of the planet in one second. It's really trivial to use, and can be very funny. Trying the web site yesterday, I had a chat with two students of UMaine who were really funny but should concentrate a bit more on what the teacher says instead of joking online with the rest of the world ;-) Two guys doing a lightsaber fight in front of their webcam dressed as a Jedi and Darth Vador made me laugh a lot.

But there's a very bad side on that site: total lack of control... There's a link to report inappropriate content but I wonder if it really works. Some users are totally nuts, and offensive (even very offensive) cams are not rare. There are a lot of very cool and normal users, but the site is also full of totally nuts people showing their anatomy... Since there are a lot of teen-agers and even children connected, I think the site is a dangerous, if not very dangerous, place and I strongly recommend you add the URL to the parental controls of your kids' computer.

Since the site appears to be based in Russia, I suspect there's not a lot that can be done, and that's really too bad because during my first seconds on the site, chatting with total strangers everywhere in the world, I had a rare glimpse of the "global village" in its best sense. A second later my smile fade away in front of the worst of the web. Fortunately the lightsaber fight and the UMaine students finally gave me my smile back.

Use at your own risk.