Airtime is a browser-based live video chat service that connects directly with Facebook. For the first public demonstration of their new start-up, co-founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning recruited a room full of celebrities and invited them to New York City’s Milk Studios on Wednesday.
"We look at Airtime as if it were a smart and engaging host," Fanning said onstage, "to help you find the people that you should know and then guide your conversations further."
Alicia Keys, Jim Carrey, Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, Ed Helms, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jimmy Fallon, Joel McHale and Olivia Munn were among the first to experience seamless video chatting with their Facebook friends via Airtime. The service allows filtering chats by location and interests. Users start out as anonymous until they decide to disclose personal Facebook information. They can also jump to a new anonymous chat with the click of a button. At launch, Airtime is enabled for simultaneous YouTube viewing and more video platforms are expected to be integrated soon.
In essence, Airtime is a more sprawling Google Plus Hangouts mixed with a less creepy Chat Roulette.
"All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know," Parker said at the event. "That wasn’t always the case. As we move from a social graph to an interest graph, there are great possibilities for our world."
Parker and Fanning, former partners-in-crime behind Napster, met fifteen years ago on a chat room for hackers. They spoke of this need for serendipity with social media.
"These are connections that wouldn’t be possible in the real world," Fanning said. "And it is finally possible, with the ubiquity of webcams, broadband connections and a highly developed identity layer."
After founding Napster, Parker went on to invest famously in Facebook, while Fanning joined the start-up teams of Spotify and Path.