Going by media accounts, Chatroulette.com is all the rage. It was mentioned on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, and The Daily Show parodied the site last Thursday.
In other words, the unvetted showcase for exhibitionism may have already jumped the shark.
It doesn't always work out that way, though. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have only grown in popularity since they were mainstream media novelties. A flavor of the week occasionally becomes the next Web 2.0 sweetheart.
As a traffic-grabbing phenom, Chatroulette is going to pose the same questions that we've asked about online eyeball magnets. Is it for sale? Can it be monetized? Chatroulette poses a new query: Will our shareholders approve?
See, Chatroulette pushes the envelope by packaging it in a brown paper bag. The video-chat site connects two random strangers by webcam until one or the other clicks the "next" button. It's unfiltered, so one shouldn't be surprised to find the site dominated by angst-riddled guys -- pants optional.
The curiosity factor is certainly helping attract an audience these days. This would make it a natural buyout candidate for panache-starved Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) . Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) would also make sense, since it has a lot of experience monetizing video screens through YouTube. AOL (NYSE: AOL ) is a new media heavy that can use the popularity injection. Unfortunately, wallpapering Chatroulette with ads would probably kill its buzz. The search engines may also alienate sponsors if they fear their ads will show up on a site with questionable content.
Playboy (NYSE: PLA ) and Rick's Cabaret (Nasdaq: RICK ) are some of the adult-entertainment companies that wouldn't sweat the taboo. However, Playboy is in a bad spot. It isn't expected to turn a profit until next year at the earliest. Rick's Cabaret is profitable, but probably not in a position to raise its bidding card.
That leaves online dating-site operators. IAC (Nasdaq: IACI ) could probably take the Chatroulette model and update it for its Match.com and Chemistry sites. A walled subscription model would help close the gender gap, revolutionizing the concept of speed dating. However, it can always just copy the concept for an in-house feature.
Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI ) is a longshot, but the webcam maker would clearly benefit by being at the wheel of a site with so many webcams firing up.
A buyout still doesn't seem feasible. You need a seller and a buyer to complete a transaction, and Chatroulette may be noncommittal on both ends.
That's OK, though. One of them can simply hit the F9 key, and a new random stranger will pop up.
Is Chatroulette here to stay? Share your thoughts -- and experiences, if you dare -- in the comments box below.