Privacy and safety concerns led Rounds to retire ‘Meet New People’ feature

25 Feb 2013

Rounds marketing director Natasha Shine-Zirkel

Fast-growing web hangouts player Rounds said its decision to retire its ‘Meet New People’ feature was in reaction to the pressing need to ensure the privacy and safety of its young users – many who are under 18 – as well as the realisation that people prefer to have longer, in-depth conversations with people they know.

Earlier this month, the Tel Aviv social video platform player decided to retire the feature.

The company’s Facebook app is used by more than 7m people and up until recently employed a social-matching algorithm allowing users to meet like-minded new people but from here on will require pre-existing Facebook friendship for users to interact. The company’s platform is also accessible over iOS, Android, web, Chrome and as a desktop app.

At the time, CEO Dany Fishel said that users’ privacy and safety were the company’s priority. “It is a subject on which we will not compromise,” Fishel said.

Speaking with, Rounds’ marketing director Natasha Shine-Zirkel explained that 70pc of Rounds users are under 25 and 30pc are under 18.

The company had taken measures to ensure that the app could not be used by adults to talk to children including using’s face-recognition technology to ensure people of an appropriate age were talking to others in the right age bracket. Israel-based was acquired by Facebook for US$60m last year.

“We have a really strong reporting system on our platform to make sure not only could users actually report each other and get banned for inappropriate behaviour but we were also monitoring to make sure that if someone behaved inappropriately, they would be banned for life.

“But despite all these efforts we found that people that want to be inappropriate will find ways to do it and we have so many users under 18 – 30pc are under 18 and 70pc are under 25 – our priority is user safety and privacy,” Shine-Zirkel said.

The art of conversation lives on

She added that Rounds – which provides hangout experiences over video that also allow users to play video games together and share music experiences – decided that users preferred to have longer conversations with people they knew.

Shine-Zirkel pointed put that 50pc of all video conversations on Rounds are four minutes and longer, viewed as ‘meaningful’ by the company.

The average length of these meaningful video hangouts is 11 minutes for mobile conversations and more than 21 minutes from Rounds’ Facebook app – with more than 10pc of Facebook conversations lasting more than 30 minutes.

“Because of those reasons we decided to remove the ‘Meet Someone New’ feature which was quite popular but just decided in the best interests of users and younger users to remove it.

“People were trying to exploit it – we did put in a lot of effort to make sure it was safe and secure but we made a decision to focus on the safety.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years