by Mariette Johnson Wharton, VP of Marketing
~Airtime, video chat service launched Tuesday, has already been unfavorably compared to the fizzled Chatroulette. Critics include Vidtel CEO Scott Wharton, who was recently quoted in TechNewsWorld as pointing to the inferior (ok, he said “awful”) Adobe Flash that the service is based on. Even being backed by Napster founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning might not be able to save Airtime, although there is a lot of promise in the concept.
From Erika Morphy’s Airtime: Flash of Brilliance or Flash in the Pan?, an excerpt:
There are many reasons to love this concept, said Scott Wharton, CEO of Vidtel.
“I think there is an insatiable demand by people to meet on the Internet face to face in real time,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Wharton recalled evidence of this demand stretching back to the 1990s, when he was product manager for Internet Phone, the first commercial VoIP and video client, at VocalTec.
“It offered a community browser that allowed people to go into rooms based on their interests, and that was hugely popular,” he said.
Airtime builds on the ground Chatroulette laid a few years ago, added Wharton, but with advantages.
“Chatroutlette was completely random,” he noted. “Airtime is on to something better — there are a lot of people out there that don’t want to talk to strangers about just any topic.”
Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash “is just awful,” he said. “The main reason they selected it, I would imagine, is because it is free and embedded in most browsers. But Adobe Flash doesn’t come close the quality you see in Skype or Google Chat.”
There have been other companies that tried to penetrate the video chat market with similar models, according to Wharton, but they failed miserably — in large part because of Adobe Flash technology.
“There have literally been dozens of companies that have tried to use Flash as the platform of choice and plug them into Facebook. All have failed so far — even with star studded backing,” he said, pointing in particular to Socialeyes, launched last year by Rob Glazer of RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) fame.
Another example is Tokbox, Wharton said.
In place of Flash, he said, the next generation of video chat services will likely use a new technology called “WebRTC,” which is backed by Google and is free and available for license. “The quality, though, is much better.”