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Napster founders launch Airtime, a new video service


The founders of Napster have joined forces once again to launch a new video service called Airtime.

By Salvador Rodriguez

Two of Napster‘s founders have rejoined forces to launch a new startup, this time a live social video network.

The new service by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning is intended to bring users together through their social networks as well as their shared interests in a way that seems to combine the experiences ofSkype, Chatroulette and alsoGoogle’s now-extinct Wave.

To use Airtime, which was launched at an event Tuesday in New York City, users need only a Facebook account and a webcam.

Once inside Airtime’s website, users can choose to video chat or simply instant message with people from their Facebook friends list. They can also hit a button that says “Talk to Someone” and be placed in a random video chat with someone based off their interests and locations.

Airtime gets rid of some of the creepiness of Chatroulette by letting you limit your random call to friends of your friends, but after I tried it the first time — and granted, I never once used Chatroulette — I was still creeped out a bit and closed the call before the other person could even say “Hi.”

The service is entering a crowded video call market, but what could set Airtime apart from its competitors is the ability to share and watch content with others.

Right now users can watch YouTube videos at the same time, and more sharing options are supposed to be added in the future. Anyone who has ever tried watching a video with a loved one in a different city at the same time and can never quite get the two videos to play simultaneously will certainly find value there, especially if Airtime adds services like Netflix, Hulu or Pandora.

Parker and Fanning based the new service off their own relationship. The two business partners met over the Internet in a chat room and became friends talking about their interest in hacking. Now the pair believe those kinds of meetings on the Web are happening less often and want to bring them back.

“There’s something exciting about bringing spontaneity to the Internet,” Parker said. “All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know. That wasn’t always the case.

“As we move from a social graph to an interest graph, there are great possibilities for our world,” he added. “That’s what we’re trying to tap into with Airtime.”

Napster founders launch Airtime, a new video service

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