He is thin and nervous, with light sprays of acne on his cheeks and a fuzz of dark-blond hair.
He has a hard time making eye contact and learned English by spending thousands of hours chatting online, but he says that his passion is talking with people and “exploring other cultures.”Selling souvenirs to foreign tourists was an ideal job for Ternovskiy.
Hundreds of articles and blog posts have asked whether Chatroulette is a fad or a good investment, and if it will change Internet culture forever.
We watched each other typing and reacting to the words that scrolled next to our images, co-stars in a postmodern silent film.There are some unsavory things on Chatroulette: copulating couples, masturbators, a man who has hanged himself (it’s fake). (Within twenty-four hours, Ternovskiy made it vastly easier for the site to cut off offensive users.) But the You Tube videos that people have recorded of their trips through the Chatroulette vortex also show a lot of joy.When the actor Ashton Kutcher was in Moscow in February, as part of a U. State Department technology delegation, he berated Ternovskiy for what his stepdaughter had seen on the site. There is, for example, the video of the dancing banana, crudely drawn on lined paper, exhorting people to “Dance or gtfo!” (Dance or get the fuck out.) The banana’s partners usually respond with wiggling delight.On Chatroulette you can always just disappear.“People are, from a gut, instinctual level, so interested in finding each other.
You see the lonely in people,” says Scott Heiferman, the founder of Meetup, a site that facilitates in-person meetings for people with common interests.
The most reliable version, however, centers on a shop called Russian Souvenirs.
It is an upscale outfit owned by Ternovskiy’s uncle Sasha, who hired his nephew to work there as a salesman during the summer of 2008, five days a week, eleven hours a day.
Ternovskiy was supposed to show foreign tourists around the shop, pulling various nesting dolls, lacquered boxes, and kitschy Soviet paraphernalia from the bright vitrines.
The job was easy but exhilarating.“I was really excited to work there, because I met, like, hundreds of different nations in a day,” Ternovskiy said recently at a coffee shop near his mother’s apartment, in the far reaches of northwestern Moscow.
Ternovskiy, an eighteen-year-old high-school dropout from Moscow, has a variety of explanations for why he created the Web site