Will Airtime be the next hot trend?

You have probably heard of Airtime by now. It's the new social media site, created by Napster co-founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, that links our lives online at random and in real time.

By buddying up with Facebook, Airtime enables you to make direct calls - aka video chats - to Facebook friends, family, and fans. It also enables matched video chat with virtual strangers, through Facebook’s “liked” topics.

So, if I like, say, a retail store and you like it too, we can connect through Airtime. What a way to remind us that, indeed, “it’s a small world after all.”

But is Airtime something that social media users will find interesting enough to use more than once? And many entrepreneurs and business owners alike may be wondering if they can use Airtime to make business connections in a practical way.

Many more speculators are wondering if Airtime is safe enough to use or if it will merely be a re-run of the world-wide video chat sensation Chatroulette.

Will it take off or just be a place to take it all off?

You may have heard of, or even been a part of, the video chat site named Chatroulette. This chat video was started by the Russian teenager Andrey Ternovskiy, and the site was a big hit until strangers started "flashing" the screen when chatting with strangers.

While you always have to use caution, Airtime states that it has the cure for the burning sensation of "pervert-itis". Their mastermind idea is that of a “screen snapshot.” This feature will attempt to provide accountability. Here is the plan according to the inventor, Sean Parker:

“These screenshots are…run through an automated, algorithmic review process which utilises a variety of custom technologies including face detection and luminosity detection. We store these screenshots indefinitely to detect patterns in abuse and train our algorithmic systems. Screenshots that are flagged as problematic by our systems are first anonymised and reviewed by our team of trained safety professionals.”

So, if you come across a chat buddy that is inappropriate, you have the option of flagging him or her if the Airtime safety professionals do not catch it first.

Pros and cons

In short, on the upside you have ample opportunity to enjoy the virtual company of the faraway, the notorious, the famous, the likeminded, the virtuous, the respected. Again… technical “webbed” beauty at its best.

Frankly, you could just meet someone pretty darn cool. Another interesting feature is the ability to watch videos with someone at the same time via YouTube; maybe someday soon Netflix or Hulu videos will also be available.

On the down side, you have to consent to Airtime's control. You will gift the creators of Airtime this “small” control in your “signed” contract. While bridges are built through this safety net, vague and problematic boundaries can, and are, also created.

A right to take a screen snapshot, albeit no video or audio, and keep the snapshot indefinitely and anonymously seems a bit questionable to many would-be users. However, keep in mind that Airtime never monitors direct calls, only random connections. Another plus is that Airtime never captures audio or video content; they only take screenshots.

Another downside: is porn the only way you can be offended…or upended on Airtime?

How can Airtime detect hateful, racist, bigoted, or otherwise offensive language? Just because the other user isn't showing some unwanted skin doesn't mean that you won't find yourself in an awkward situation.

What about business uses?

Believe it or not, Airtime actually provides some very practical uses for businesses.

Of course, you can do the obvious and use Airtime to connect with a fan/client of yours or even a colleague (keep in mind that they have to be on Facebook) for a remote face-to-face call, whether for sales purposes, to give a visual demonstration on how to properly use a product, or to conduct a business meeting.

Keep in mind, though, that for now Airtime only allows a one-on-one connection, while Google+ Hangouts is better suited for a group conference call.

Businesses may also have an opportunity to meet random new business connections through the random chat feature. Since Airtime connects you to people with similar interests and friends, you may find yourself connecting with some individuals who could be a great asset to your business.

Businesses can also create customised ads for a specific audience on Airtime. Due to the information that Airtime requires you to provide, such as interests, businesses can make sure their ads are seen by users who provide similar information.

Airtime could become social media’s “Air Jordan.” So, if you sense it could be the best of social media video since Skype, use it. Just use common sense and flag those who are not using the technology appropriately.

Tara Hornor

has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company that offers folded brochures, business cards, flyers, posters, postcards, booklets, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

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