Online chat makes a comeback? The best contenders

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It’s been nearly 11 months since ChatRoulette, the webcam chat site started by then 17 year-old Russian Andrey Ternovskiy exploded into popular consciousness. The site, which connected random anonymous strangers in a private chatroom with webcams soon became over-run with voyeurs and flashers. The desire to communicate with complete strangers was rejuvenated however and the popularity of video chat sites amongst internet denizens has risen.

The result has been a glut of new chat-based multimedia services. Here are five of the best contenders, all with awful names:

vChatter.com – Taking the Chatroulette concept and refining it, vChatter removes the anonymous aspect of random video chat by requiring users to log on with their Facebook accounts, thus encouraging civility. From there, you can call your Facebook friends or the site can connect you to a random stranger. Those seeking the serendipity involved with Chatroulette may not want to know who they are talking to however. The site claims to have 2 million users.

VYou.com – Billing itself as a “conversational video site”, vYou is all about video personas (as opposed to showing your true personality perhaps?). Visitors to the homepage will see a fascinating panel of live video streams from some interesting people like a professional athlete, a minor internet celebrity, a TV writer and a guitar-wielding man looking for a challenging song request. If you prefer to chat about something in particular, then you can browse profiles by interest. You might actually learn something through the site’s encouraged Q&A format.

Visitorscafe.com – Describing itself as Chatroulette meets eHarmony (an online dating site), Visitors Café narrows the field somewhat by offering its services to online communities which exist on blogs, message boards and popular sites. A good example of possible usage is guitar enthusiasts showing each other techniques. The idea is that, with established shared interests, the one on one connections will become more meaningful and focused. The site is currently invitation-only however.

Textslide.com – Dispensing with the video idea altogether, Textslide takes it back to the basics of a good-old fashioned SMS. Like Chatroulette, the connections are anonymous and the ability to move on to another stranger is a key feature. No phone numbers are displayed so personal information is kept private. You can start a conversation by sending the Textslide number a #start tag and if the interaction is not interesting, send #next tag to try again. The mobile-ready concept may just be too close to Twitter in theory to succeed however.

Chatfe.com – Taking some of the concepts above and mixing them together, Chatfé has come up with an audio-only mobile chat which connects two unfamiliar people with each other on a phone call. Like Vyou, Chatfé is based around topics, so it can be used to offer friendly advice, share information and knowledge on a hobby, issue or interest (a la VisitorsCafé). Recent homepage topics included traveling, music, philosophy, equal rights and design so it’s reasonable to assume the service lacks inappropriate behaviour. Chatfé will launch a browser-based tool in the near future.

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Band of Blogs: Milan Jay, The Good Natured, Cadence Weapon & A-Trak remixes Robyn

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The Good Natured
18-year old English girl Sarah McIntosh makes Lily Allen-esque electro-pop that’s being tipped for big things in 2011 (yes, it’s that time again). Check out Be My Animal for an introduction.
http://www.myspace.com/thegoodnatured

Milan Jay
After giving away a free album called Mellow Funk last year, Galway-based Milan Jay has followed it up with an excellent EP of sprightly indie (mostly) instrumentals called To the Sea and Swim.
http://milanjay.bandcamp.com

Cadence Weapon mixtape
The Canadian compatriot, rapper and Edmonton’s poet laureate returns with a Tron-themed mixtape featuring 18 tracks and a “pay what you want” download system.
http://www.cadenceweaponmusic.com

A-Trak remixes Robyn
The Duck Sauce DJ gives Robyn’s Indestructible an alternative French disco twist. The Swedish popster also covered Prince’s When Doves Cry this week.
Listen at Pitchfork

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Sites of the Week: Jumping Rob, There I Fixed It & Flushtracker

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Jumping Rob
Take one paparazzi picture of Twilight star Robert Pattinson diving into water and recontextualise the cutout into other pictures. An internet-fueled concept that works time and time again.
http://fuckyeahjumpingrob.tumblr.com

There I Fixed It
Examples of terrible DIY and quick-fixes. Please keep these people away from real problems.
http://thereifixedit.failblog.org

Flushtracker
Find out where your poo goes… if you’re into that kind of thing.
http://www.flushtracker.com

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