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The Chatroulette web site was created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow, Russia. Ternovskiy says the concept arose from video chats he used to have with friends on Skype, and that he wrote the first version of Chatroulette in "two days and two nights". Ternovskiy chose the name "Chatroulette" after watching The Deer Hunter, a 1978 film set in the Vietnam War in which prisoners of war are forced to play Russian roulette.
In early November 2009, shortly after the site launched, it had 500 visitors per day.One month later there were 50,000. The site has been featured in The New York Times, New York magazine, and on Good Morning America, Newsnight in the United Kingdom, Tosh.0, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Chatroulette was even parodied in the South Park season 14 episode "You Have 0 Friends". In February 2010, there were about 35,000 people on Chatroulette at any given time. Around the beginning of March, Ternovskiy estimated the site to have around 1.5 million users, approximately 33% of them from the United States and 5% from Germany.