Over the last decade, we've logged on to Chatroulette for the nostalgia of the thing, or as a stunt; usually spurred on by a roommate and some wine, plus boredom, or a search for the meaning of happiness. People keep returning to this 12 year old website whose gimmick we've already seen, so we must be on the hunt for something deeper. Over the last two years of pandemic lockdowns, that hunt has become more vulnerable, if not a little pathetic: a simple connection with another human, a lifeline out of the loneliness of quarantine. Even in the midst of death, destruction, and despair, however, it's still mostly dicks. All this time, Ternovskiy has been working on what he called the "penis problem." It's not that he's against sex; people flashing on his site not only shaped its reputation forever, but caused it to hemorrhage visitors. If someone logged on once and saw something that offended them, he said, they'd log off and never come back. He would prefer to be hands-off from the site's ecosystem, and let it grow however it will. "My first goal is to make a site which people enjoy, whether that's acceptable in the culture or not," he told me. "Luckily, nobody wants dicks."
“I don't want to create some fancy solution that looks at the shape of the penis. It's stupid. It's unbelievable.”
"Ideally, I don't want to ban them. I don't want to create some fancy solution that looks at the shape of the penis. It's stupid. It's unbelievable," Ternovskiy said. "It's actually such a scam, this whole industry, because it sounds like a kind of intelligence—'oh, you can have a machine to recognize penis.' But then in reality, it's so stupid, because you have one million ways you could be offensive. You know?"
"If you create Chatroulette for [adult content], then it's just going to be dicks looking at dicks. It just doesn't work."
"I really hate to see things die," Ternovskiy said. "And I really want to take Chatroulette in the future. You know, it doesn't have to be the same Chatroulette, but I want to continue, for the story to live on."