Napster founders launch video service Airtime

Two of Napster’s founders have rejoined forces to launch another start-up, this time a live social video network.

The new service by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning is intended to bring users together through their social networks and shared interests.

To use Airtime, which was launched at an event Tuesday in New York City, users need only a Facebook account and a webcam.

Once inside Airtime’s website, users can choose to video chat or simply instant message with people from their Facebook friends list. They can also hit a button that says “Talk to Someone” and be placed in a random video chat with someone based on their interests and locations.

Airtime gets rid of some of the creepiness of Chatroulette by letting users limit their random calls to friends of their friends.

The service is entering a crowded video call market, but what could set Airtime apart from its competitors is the ability to share and watch content with others.

Users can now watch YouTube videos at the same time, and more sharing options are supposed to be added in the future. Anyone who has ever tried watching a video with a loved one in a different city at the same time and can never quite get the two videos to play simultaneously will find value there, especially if Airtime adds services like Netflix, Hulu or Pandora.

Parker and Fanning, who created the Napster online music-sharing site in 1999 before it was shut down two years later, based the new service on their own relationship. The two business partners met over the Internet in a chat room and became friends talking about their interest in hacking. Now the pair believe that those kinds of meetings on the Web are happening less often and want to bring them back.

“There’s something exciting about bringing spontaneity to the Internet,” Parker said. “All of your interactions online are constrained by the people you already know. That wasn’t always the case.”