Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strangers are not so strange!

A security hole in Facebook made everyone consider much about their privacy once more. It was said [1] that yesterday during a certain period, Facebook users could see others private information like others' inbox and chat, which ultimately forced facebook to disable their chat functionality for the whole day, till the issue was fixed.

There is a possibility of attack/phishing sites storing the passwords once  we logged in  to them using our facebook account. Better avoid using facebook log in information (username and password) as the open id to log into other sites. It should be noted that Facebook is designed basically to connect friends and not for connecting with strangers.

On the contrary there are services that pairs two random strangers into a chat. Omegle provides both a webcam and text chat, while Chatroulette [2] providing a webcam chat. While these services allow chats between complete random strangers, AOT provides an option to sign up before start chatting, hence making it more personal or complete random based on personal preference. With 6000 users on average, Omegle text chat provides a safe environment for you to chat with strangers, though it is not advisable to expose your identity to strangers and click the links shared by them, which mostly contain viruses, advertisement to their sites, or harassing materials.

But the possibility of getting some friends from the sites too can not be ignored. I was lucky enough to find some nice friends in my one and only visit to Omegle, though I came across some who seeks *some kinda random fun*, and thus disconnected once knowing I am going to blog this. I met Maher, a Telecommunication Engineering undergraduate from Lebanon over there, where we found that we share similar interests and later became good online pals. We were discussing the possibility of a service that can be used to verify someone's identity over the anonymous environments like Omegle.

Stranger: "it is obvious that there is no way of permanent deletion of facebook accounts. Aren't these a violation of user-rights?"
Stranger: hahaha told u :D
You: hehe
You: I agree
You: this service gave me a good idea of a software, on user identity
You: The general use case wud be
You: I will have a userid and it can create many keys.
You: by providing the {id, key} pair, u can log into a third party identity provider.
You: id is unique
You: key is one time use
You: i can generate infinite number of keys :)
Stranger: isn't that like loging into facebook via ur hotmail email and creating session id ?
You: no
Stranger: hotmail email could be the unique key...
You: I mean, I will create the key from my id using the service provider
You: then I will share you the {id,key} pair here, so that you can verify me as Pradeeban from the service
You: once u verified, the key will be invalid
Stranger: ohh i see...
Stranger: yeah that seems practical...
Stranger: kinda like ssl encryption keys...
You: yes,
You: and towards identity.. may be like a blogger url (id) along with a randomly generated one time pass (key) to enter it.
Stranger: good idea for a sort of internet passport...
You: yes.. exactly
You: may be I should blog abt this.. :)
Stranger: cool

I expected a lengthy post on this, which I couldn't afford at the moment, due to  the time constraints I am having at the moment. Special thanks goes to my pal Maher, who made me feel that strangers are not so strange, literally giving me the hint of choosing this topic. Omegle is worth a try once, and only once. Don't forget the  'Disconnect' button -- it's your friend.

I later heard about a similar site called AnybodyOutThere (AOT), which allows the users to register and interact with strangers. However, that was a complaint regarding the service outages of AOT, with strange messages.

    * SQL Error: Too many connections.
Click here to return to the previous page, and fix the errors

Fatal error: Call to a member function setPresence() on a non-object in /www/docs/aot_www_v2.3.0/inc/sessionFuncs.php on line 148

We're currently having an unexpected outage because Amazon Web Services are 
experiencing a degradation. They are working on it. Thank you for your patience.
So obviously AOT must be going through some scheduled maintenance or some unexpected downtime for a short period of time. However the strange technical error messages must have scared the not-so-technical audience of AOT! I just found yet another user of AWS, and seems they are having trouble using that, with multiple down times.

[1] TechCrunch : Major Facebook security hole lets you view your friends’ live chats
[2]  5 Reasons Why Chatroulette Is Addictive, and Worth a Try


  1. Its weird that after our little chat a security whole in facebook's privacy setting preview was found.

  2. yes Maher.. and it has induced a huge disturbance among the Facebook users too..

  3. Even though I have reservations about facebook its privacy issues I continue to use it. Right or wrong I have come to depend on the site as an important place for me to communicate.

  4. I agree Anthony. Though we criticize Facebook a lot, none of us is ready to leave it literally. That's the great strength of Facebook too.

  5. Good article, You can do more desi video chat on tohla india (


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