Napster founders reunite for video-sharing biz: Airtime

Krystal Peak · June 5, 2012 · Short URL:

Sean Parker, Shawn Fanning unveil their super-secret project with a face-to-face component

The time has finally arrived for Napster creators Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning to introduce the world to their newest creation: Airtime. A lot of buzz has been building around this venture over the last six months or so and quite a few venture dollars were pouring in.

Finally we get a look at just what the two tech entrepreneurs have been scheming away on: A Facebook-connected app that lets people share and discover video while video chatting with friends, friends-of-friends or people with common interests as theirs.

Even while in stealth-mode, Airtime was able to pull in a full Series B round of funding just two weeks ago. This latest $25 million round was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and including Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Google Ventures, and the Social + Capital Partnership.  As a result of the round, Bing Gordon from KPCB will join the Airtime board. This brings Airtime's funding to around $32 million.  

The highly-anticipated and very hush-hush project seems to be a more flushed out video-sharing version of the now defunct Chatroulette.

This new one-on-one video chat service unveiled today in New York and drew a celebrity crowd with the likes of Olivia Munn, Jimmy Falon, Joel McHale, Alicia Keyes and Snoop Dogg all in attendance to see the creation in action.

After more than a year of development, Airtime is now available for those that want to test it out and connect via Facebook. You simply agree to the service connection then you are met with a screen that shows a live video of you and the options of who you wish to connect with and what videos you want to share with them.

While I would probably like to use this service to share videos I have come across on the Web with friends, I am not likely to use this to meet random strangers but Parker did explain at the unveiling that privacy and safety are big concerns for the company and the service does not share any of your information with the other party until you decide to do so -- if ever. So while it is Facebook-connected, since there is a stranger component, it will not make your profile name or Website available. 

The service is also completely Web-based, so there is no software that needs to be downloaded. You simply have to have a latest update of Firefox, Chrome or Safari, a Facebook account and a Web cam to get on Airtime.

There is also a gamification component to this service that allows people to give those they chat with stars -- these help them earn badges, achievements and gain credibility. 

At the moment the service is targeted at helping people video chat and share YouTube videos together but in coming months more content sharing options will likely be added -- such as live music listening and photo viewing.

I would still hold out some safety and privacy concerns since strangers will get a glimpse into your room, office, life and you never know what you are going to get, but it could gear up to be a fun and unique service that is easy to integrate into your online experience.

It took me less than a minute to get into the service and choose who I would like to chat and share with.

As more services are removing the human element, it is a nice thing to see a way that online users can get a little more personal and connect face-to-face -- even if they aren't in the same place.

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