It's not French.
You don't pronounce it "Chat-roulee". It's "Chat-Roo-let," a combination of chat and. . .well, roulette. Which is exactly what it is: you enable your computer's web cam, click on the website, push "play" and you're connected randomly to another netzien somewhere in the world.
Call it the "anti-Facebook." There's no social network here. Many of the folks you'll encounter are scary. Anti-social. Foreign. Or naked. (But that's usually men. Women like to keep their clothes on, usually.) It's disturbing, definitely. Like watching a car wreck. But it's also like a Lay's Potato Chip: betcha can't watch just once. Internet writers are raving about it.
These on-partnerships are dissolved at the click of a "next" button, and the dice are rolled again. It's completely anonymous. Mostly fleeting. You probably won't develop any long-term friendship with anyone on here (and maybe, you should be glad for that). You might develop some phobias involving penises. There's lots of those on there. Apparently, a good percentage of human males are proud of what God gave em. And there's no registration or age verification, which is a bit worry some.
In a couple hours of just randomly clicking through Chatroulette (without a web cam--I guess I'm either just shy or too much of a voyeur), it seemed as though most of those on the site were either:
- bored young men
- bored young women
- groups of titillated teenagers
- hand-written messages of the "show me your tits" variety
- middle-aged men proud of their masturbatory technique
- people of undetermined age or sex wearing interesting masks
The strangest glimpse was of a naked man wearing a Richard Nixon mask pleasuring himself. One stop showed a still-life scene of a bathroom shower, empty but for a ripped shower curtain and a spray of blood on the shower wall. And others danced, made faces, flipped the bird, or played music. One couple made love, though I wasn't too sure that wasn't just a porno film captured on web cam.
After a bit, I dipped my toe in the chat waters and attempted to engage a few folks in conversation. Since I didn't have a web cam, most dropped me. But I did trade messages with a middle-aged man in China (we didn't speak each other's language, but he smiled when I typed "Yao Ming), two college students in Turkey (who agreed there were "too many dicks on here"), and a college student in Taiwan studying Japanese and English who was fearful of Red Chinese military buildups. After awhile, it became sport to try to get a reaction from people with my initial message: "This is the FBI!" or "Your wife knows you're on here!"
I guess it's only a matter of time until this site--which supposedly sees upward of 30,000 computers hooked up to it at a time!--implodes, either under its own traffic, some legal issue related to use by minors, or advertising. Already, a few Chatrouletters are somehow linking their web cams to advertising messages. And some are calling it the one event that will open the door to widespread on-line video conferencing for the masses.
This is the Wild West of the internet. So far, anything goes. You can get away with anything, it seems, and there is no consequence of doing so. If you're a little brave, give it a look. But be warned. And by all means--keep your kids away.