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ChatVille Promises Cheeky Conversations and No Hairy Cheeks

ChatVille

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Say what you want about ChatRoulette — and its attendant scary, hairy parts — it is popular (in that can’t-help-but-stare-at-an-accident kind of way). So it was only a matter of time before someone spawned a squeaky clean version with enough scale to capture the imagination, and the purse strings of advertisers. Enter ChatVille, a brand new Facebook application brought to you by the folks at Digsby, the creators of popular IM software.

CEO Steve Shapiro calls ChatVille a game, and it is in a sense. While chatting with a revolving set of Facebook users you can earn compliments and unlock badges, and… level up through positive experiences with other users! The app allows you to video chat with all your Facebook friends for the first time, right from the Facebook Web site, Shapiro says. Are you having fun yet? Team ChatVille is so sure you will it added the capability to memorialize your adventures by posting screenshots to your Facebook album.

The application just launched Thursday, so at the time this was written, only 10 people were “active users.” But the fan base is growing (About 100 added on in a subsequent hour), so it’s only a matter of time before the chat frenzy begins.

Which brings up the privacy issue as well as the ick factor. Shapiro says ChatVille should remain immune from random junk shots or other louche come-ons because, “Your interactions are tied to your Facebook account under the hood so there are actionable consequences for inappropriate behavior.”

He says ChatVille employs a proprietary system for weeding out the bad apples quickly and permanently. Shapiro’s betting on the fact that users first names are exposed for starters. “We feel people will be more responsible because of this.” (Ummm, what if your first name is John? Or, heaven forbid, Dick?)

It’s kind of a thin barrier, so we were glad to see that Shapiro has a back-up plan. Pointing out that banning a user in ChatRoulette is a virtual slap on the wrist, “All they need to do is close their browser, clear the cookies, and they’re back in,” Shapiro says. “In ChatVille, because your actions are tied to a specific Facebook account, we can ban that account permanently.” Cue ominous music.

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There’s a third layer of policing which includes a mechanism for flagging suspicious accounts (ie: newly created, very few friends, etc.), Shapiro says. “The threshold for getting banned is much lower for those accounts. This makes it difficult for people to create new Facebook accounts just to get into ChatVille,” he insists.

So far, so good. Why not log in and tell us what you think?

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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