June 09, 2012, 7:45 AM — I just took Airtime, the new video chat service from start-up stars Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, for a spin on Tuesday, its first day of general availability. My first impressions: It works fine, though I'm not sure I'll get addicted to it.
The free browser-based Skype/Google+ hangout/Facebook chat alternative works pretty much as advertised, and as promoted at its New York press conference today with Snoop Dog, Jimmy Fallon and other stars participating. The company is backed by at least $25 million in funding, so has plenty of such splash cash. A premium version, ads and virtual goods will all be ways for Airtime to make money down the road.
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I visited the site via Google Chrome, and while my MacBook Pro's fans started whirring wildly, things settled down and I got down to business on Airtime. First up it forced me to surrender Facebook info I'd rather not give up in order to sign in (access to my friends, interests, etc., for the purpose of enabling Airtime to sync me up with my friends as well as people I don't know but who have similar interests). No downloads are necessary, though you do need a Facebook account and a webcam-equipped computer that meets the following tech requirements: 1.5Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 1.5Mbps bandwidth (see video demo of service at bottom of this story).
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My list of Facebook friends showed up on the right hand side of the screen, and presumably would have indicated if any were also using Airtime. None were. I was able, from within the Airtime site, to message a couple of Facebook friends to see if they'd like to give the video chat service a try with me, but none happened to be watching their Facebook feed at the time. I couldn't figure out how to backtrack from there, so wound up closing out of the service and starting over.