The New York Times dubbed it "Chatroulette for the college set." But the founder of RandomDorm, a video chatting service for college students (or alums who still use their university email accounts), says he has higher hopes for the month-old website.
Josh Weinstein, who graduated last year with an East Asian studies degree from Princeton University, now works full time on his other start-up, GoodCrush, a dating site for college students. RandomDorm was initially conceived as part of GoodCrush, but instead spun off on its own, garnering more than 7,000 users since its launch.
When we spoke last week, Weinstein confided that some of the site's kinks -- such as connection problems -- were still being worked out recently. But, he added, college students should also expect much more from the new site.
Was Chatroulette the inspiration for RandomDorm?
We were definitely going to do chatting with GoodCrush. I think [that with] the simultaneous popularity and disappointment of Chatroulette and that people had with the Chatroulette experience, we realized we had the opportunity to offer value added to the chatting service by reducing inappropriate content and making it more community oriented.
What's the purpose of RandomDorm?
RandomDorm is purely recreational and social to allow college students to share party ideas, study techniques, practice their language skills with their international counterparts -- and not see inappropriate content. What RandomDorm is designed to do is create an environment that is free from inappropriate content. We're hesitant to compare ourselves with Chatroulette because if you were to say that we're Chatroulette for college students, that's basically saying we are random, inappropriate video content for college students. Instead, we are a video chatting service for college students.
We have multiple layers of moderation. Users are either consciously or subconsciously aware of their actions because they are submitting their school email address. We have a report button. We have a lot of ways that we're both passively and actively assuring the moderation of our content.
How do you keep non-college students off the site?
The only way we can really ensure that our users are in college is college [email] validation verification. There are some alumni addresses. In the case of Yale, Harvard and Princeton, all of the email addresses have a certain suffix that indicates their alumni status. But in the case of Columbia, for example, we really have no way of discerning by looking at the email address who is an alum. The email verification, I think we're 95 to 99 percent of the way there.
What's next for RandomDorm?
Going forward it's very simple for us to add something like text-based chat. We're working on a lot of innovative features to really offer a significantly-enhanced user experience around this community aspect and really taking the core of video chatting technology as the basis of something we see as having huge potential going forward.
Image, top: Josh Weinstein
Image, bottom: RandomDorm homepage
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