(AP) -- A new Web sensation called Chatroulette feels like a throwback to the early 1990s, when online chat rooms brimmed with lonely strangers looking for meaningful connections, meaningless sex, or something in between.
But this time, there's a twist: Everyone on the site has a webcam.
It's free to use and has just one understated, text-only advertisement on the bottom of the screen.
The creator of Chatroulette did not respond to messages from The Associated Press.
The New York Times identified the creator as a 17-year-old Russian teenager named Andrey Ternovskiy.
The conversation went something like speed-dating, a little choppy at first but kind of intriguing. Chatroulette's setup is simple: Two boxes on the left side of the page are for the webcam videos - one marked "Partner" and the other "You." A larger box to the right is where you type messages to the stranger staring back at you.
To start, click "Play," and the site connects you to a random person until you, or the other person, hit "Next." You can also enable audio.
Some folks have used it to play music to their chat partners in hopes of getting them to dance.
People don't need to register to use Chatroulette, though the site asks they be at least 16 years old.
The result can be unpredictable and raw, like a slap in the face, but also refreshing, a peek into someone else's life.
It's far from the sanitized worlds we create for ourselves on sites such as Facebook, where we mainly connect with friends, family and people with common interests. It didn't seem worth it to stick around and find out.
"Chatroulette is stark because it feels like television. To be clear, Chatroulette bans "obscene, offending, pornographic material" and says it will block users who violate these rules, though that does not seem to trouble some people.
It's like sitting in front of the TV flipping channels, except the people are real," says Hal Niedzviecki, author of "The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors." A quick spin the other night yielded a pair of rejections - swift and brutal - from two male users, their faces popping up briefly before they moved on. Then, a young woman wearing headphones popped up on the screen. She didn't - she typed "Hi." She said she was from China, studying computer engineering.