Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning start taking the wraps off new startup Airtime

airtimeSean Parker, of Napster and later of Facebook fame, has begun to (partially unwittingly) peel back the wrap on his current project. Late last year, Parker sent his first ever tweet just as word that he was launching his own startup with fellow Napster creator Shawn Fanning broke.

Now that the startup is going a bit more public. According to its Terms of Service, “Airtime provides you with the opportunity to create, submit, post, display, transmit, perform, publish, distribute or broadcast content and materials, including, without limitation, video, text, images and other materials.” Plainly put, Airtime will be a video chat service — and it has impressive investor names behind it. Founders Fund (Parker’s firm), Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, Michael Arrington, and SV Angel are just a few of the VC firms backing the project.

There’s little else to say about Airtime at the moment – you can sign up for early access via Facebook and it appears the company is hiring. The only other information comes in the form of a picture posted to Twitter (and since deleted) by Mike Ray (@mikerays). The CEO and cofounder of YesPlz!, still in beta, posted the photo yesterday only to swiftly pull it.

airtime mike rays

If you’re keeping track, video social networking is sort of an untapped beast. Social apps have solidly wrapped themselves around the photo platform, and now video is the next frontier. Viddy and the new iteration of Color are each exploring this medium and finding ways to socialize it. And while Facebook’s Open Graph app catalogue is overrun with photo-heavy apps that post to your Timeline, there isn’t much in the video posting category yet. The timing is right for social-video applications to target that space, something Airtime is likely looking to do given its Facebook integration.

It could be something of an uphill battle, though. The last time video chat really hit a nerve with users was Chatroulette. It gamified the experience, and made it more social and less private. Video chatting is naturally a personal communication tool, and getting users around that stigma could be a challenge. Google+ Hangouts have been one of the best attempts to make video social in recent years. We’ll be waiting and watching to see how Airtime stacks up. 

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