(AP) -- A new Web sensation called Chatroulette feels like a throwback to the early 1990s, when online chat rooms brimmed with lonely strangers looking for meaningful connections, meaningless sex, or something in between.But this time, there's a twist: Everyone on the site has a webcam."Chatroulette is stark because it feels like television. To be clear, Chatroulette bans "obscene, offending, pornographic material" and says it will block users who violate these rules, though that does not seem to trouble some people.It's like sitting in front of the TV flipping channels, except the people are real," says Hal Niedzviecki, author of "The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors." A quick spin the other night yielded a pair of rejections - swift and brutal - from two male users, their faces popping up briefly before they moved on. Then, a young woman wearing headphones popped up on the screen. She didn't - she typed "Hi." She said she was from China, studying computer engineering.
Though not the first chat service to pair up random strangers, Chatroulette did add video zing to the otherwise bland random text chats.Chatroulette randomly links users with strangers who could be anywhere in the world.If you don't like the person who pops up on the screen, just click "Next." Repeat.The result can be unpredictable and raw, like a slap in the face, but also refreshing, a peek into someone else's life.It's far from the sanitized worlds we create for ourselves on sites such as Facebook, where we mainly connect with friends, family and people with common interests. It didn't seem worth it to stick around and find out.The conversation went something like speed-dating, a little choppy at first but kind of intriguing. Chatroulette's setup is simple: Two boxes on the left side of the page are for the webcam videos - one marked "Partner" and the other "You." A larger box to the right is where you type messages to the stranger staring back at you.To start, click "Play," and the site connects you to a random person until you, or the other person, hit "Next." You can also enable audio.Each random chat conversation is referred to as a game and you can restart a new game at any time.The site requires you to be clothed at all times (No.Created by a Russian school boy, Chatroulette connects millions of strangers in random video conversations.The web app itself is pretty bare-bones, with two video panes showing the user & you, a huge pane for text chat and a couple of buttons for controlling the chat.Cut to four pre-teen boys playing Dungeons & Dragons like they're generals in the Situation Room in some bad action movie.There's foul-mouthed Lucas; Dustin, who shares Judah Friedlander's taste in headwear; Mike, who looks like a 12-year-old boy version of Juliette Binoche; and sweet Will, who cannot tell a lie.It doesn't matter, anyway, because the creature he's trying to escape from is actually above him.