When it comes to ad-hoc video chatting with friends, strangers or space aliens, the heir apparent to the Chatroulette throne is TinyChat.
This Flash-based video-chatting service,launched in 2009, lets you create chatrooms on the fly. You and several friends can all broadcast, while more attendees/fans/you-name-its can watch and comment.
It’s become quite popular with more than 30,000 people joining the site every day and a million active daily users. It’s even got the requisite celeb cred with financial backing from Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs and Charlie Sheen’s replacement Ashton Kutcher.
Today, the site released a major redesign along with a new feature: location tagging for your video chats. You can choose to reveal your region or location down to a 10-mile radius, and the service displays a ‘chats in your area’ map to help you identify nearby conversations.
Co-founder Dan Blake says that this feature is a natural extension of the geotagging options in social services like Facebook or Twitter: “This is all about continuing to make the world a more connected place via the web. Say, if there’s a regular Tinychat room you use to discuss fishing, we think this feature will make it even easier for those users to meet ‘IRL’ for an actual fishing trip!” (Of course, the service’s safety tips page reminds you never, ever to agree to meet someone in real life that you encounter on the service… a bit of cognitive dissonance there.)
Where there’s video and location awareness, you know what’s bound to be right around the corner. TUAW has learned that TinyChat has an iPhone app in the late stages of development, scheduled for release within the next couple of weeks. iPhone 4 users will be able to participate in chats on the go, and can include their location information (again, this is optional) with their user profile or their chatroom settings. It’s likely that TinyChat will be first to market with this capability; although Apple could always add location to FaceTime, that would probably provoke a wave of privacy concerns.
You can sign up for a free TinyChat account through the site or via Facebook; when the iPhone app is ready for prying eyes, we’ll preview it here.