All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know.” (MORE: Chatroulette 2.0?Napster Founders Launch Airtime Video Chat) So far, Airtime hasn’t exactly been a hit.Back then it was called Apple Link, a project commissioned by Apple Computer and a company called Quantum Computer Services to connect Apple II and Macintosh computers.The beta test was dubbed “Samuel” and for Schober, a teenage fan of BBSes (bulletin board systems), it was an intriguing opportunity.Reggie Fairchild, product manager for AOL 4.0, shared this little story on Quora: It worked. As a gawky kid entering high school, chat rooms were a haven from the awkwardness of real human interaction.I’d use them to discuss punk bands like Operation Ivy with other teenagers, to play the chat room-equivalent of , and talk to what I very much hoped were actual girls.Last month, Sean Parker of Napster fame launched Airtime.
Just how powerful was America Online during this time? This is the era that many people, myself included, remember most vividly.“The BBS world, it tended to be a one-line experience — you were the sole user of the service, you could send email, you could leave messages, but it wasn’t interactive in real-time in the same way.So the experience of going into a chat room and getting a response a couple of seconds later from someone who was in the same chat room was just really cool.” Slowly, the service grew, expanding to support DOS and eventually Windows.That’s what Parker was getting at when he talked about the “spontaneity to the Internet” during the Airtime launch.In the ’90s, I constantly interacted with people known to me only by their screen names; today, I only interact that way in comments sections and on Twitter, and only occasionally. I’m nostalgic for AOL chat rooms, but would I use them if the company brought them back? But that doesn’t mean some entrepreneur out there isn’t working on something that captures the same spirit, albeit without the same hegemony AOL enjoyed.Apparently people don’t feel constrained by interacting with the people they know — they feel comforted by it.