After 14 years of linking up strangers, the controversial chat site is ‘no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically’
In big news for trios of teenage girls, creepy old men, and music students whose sense of self depends entirely on fulfilling random strangers’ song requests, Omegle is officially no more. The much-loved and often controversial service – which introduces strangers via video chat – announced its closure in a statement from founder Leif K Brooks.
In the statement, Brooks explains that he founded Omegle 14 years ago to build on the things he loved about the internet. “If the Internet is a manifestation of the ‘global village’,” he writes, “Omegle was meant to be a way of strolling down a street in that village, striking up conversations with the people you ran into along the way.” Which explains why it had a brief renaissance during COVID quarantines.
Unfortunately, Omegle came to embody the darker facets of the internet, as well. In the last couple of years, the site has been named in more than 50 legal cases against paedophiles, living up to its reputation as a stomping ground for serial cyber-flashers and other suspicious characters.
Brooks acknowledges this problem in his announcement about the site shutting down. “There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes,” he writes, adding that he attempted to fight back via content moderation and collaboration with authorities.
“Unfortunately, what is right doesn’t always prevail,” his statement continues. “The battle for Omegle has been lost.” The decision to close Omegle’s doors for good apparently came down to the stress and expense of operations amid an increasing barrage of criticism and vaguely defined “attacks”, which may have something to do with growing government crackdowns on social media companies.
“Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically,” Brooks says. “Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s.”
Needless to say, the reaction to the news has been mixed, with some celebrating the closure of what they see as a breeding ground for predatory behaviour. On the other hand, many are mourning the rite of passage that was entering an Omegle chatroom as a teenager, to have your eyes opened to the full scope of bizarre human behaviours – even if that did mean seeing some old guy’s O-face as he fumbled around below the webcam.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who used Omegle for positive purposes, and to everyone who contributed to the site’s success in any way,” Brooks signs off, in his statement. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep fighting for you.”