Who said talk was cheap? A weird new chatroom will charge you $0.01 for every character you send, and is the perfect way to toss your money away this afternoon.
Creator Marc Köhlbrugge describes the chatroom, dubbed Expensive Chat and available in web browsers, as a social experiment. “It’s a social experiment to see what happens to a chatroom when it’s not a free-for-all, but every message costs you cold, hard cash.”
Having kept an eye on it during the afternoon, I can confirm that the price tag has nearly killed any calls of A/S/L? (which would cost $0.07 ijn Expensive Chat) and instead moved to promoting products and services. After all, with the media attention the site is getting, $0.30 to advertise your company for as long as it can stay on the homepage is pretty good going.
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The site has generated $350.40 at the time of writing, all of which appears to go to the creator Marc Köhlbrugge. It’s unclear exactly why people are still taking part, perhaps it’s the zeitgeist, or perhaps it’s the hope that they could end up immortalised in this bizarre experiment. Either way, at the moment people seem to be spending several dollars a time to talk about how good Umbrella Academy is, or a bunch of people spending 20 cents to ask what the site is all about.
We reached out to a few people for comment, all of whom waggled their eyebrows and shrugged broadly when I asked them to try and make sense of it, although Köhlbrugge was open about the endevour.
“I run a couple of ‘serious’ online businesses that generate real revenue, so I try to balance my time between existing ventures and new ones like this.” he says.
“I do see a potential for Expensive Chat to turn into a real business though. if we can get celebrities or industry professionals on board, that might attract people willing to pay a premium to chat with them, perhaps more than 1 cent per letter.”
“Those revenues could then be split with them or perhaps go towards a good cause,” said Köhlbrugge. “Imagine Elon Musk hosting an “Expensive Chat session” where you can chat with him for $5 per letter. that might attract a lot of chatters, and the money could go to charity.”
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Still, even if you don’t want to indulge in the cash for characters scene the site is trying to set up, it can be fun to stand on the sidelines for an afternoon, watching people take place in short conversations that cost several dollars a time.
It also appears there’s absolutely no word filters put in place, based on the fact someone is, at the time of writing, filling the chatroom with racial slurs. This included the N word ($0.06), as there seems to be no filtering system in place for racist or bigotted comments.
Talking to Köhlbrugge, he said there wasn’t a problem due to the link between credit card details and people’s comments. However, when I pointed out the homepage currently had several slurs on it, he moved to delete the content, and relented.
I asked what he could do to prevent racial slurs appearing in the chatroom anytime people fancied dropping $0.06.
“if it becomes a true problem I’ll either use a blacklist and auto hide the messages, or I’ll use an third party service that reviews user-generated content.” explains the developer. “I might even add a report feature, but I like to take things one step at a time.”
Have you spent cash on Expensive Chat? Let us know what you said, tell us about any other cultural zeitgeist that you have been involved with. We’re on Twitter at @TrustedReviews.