Omegle — the site that matched random strangers and served as entertainment for some Gen Z sleepovers, but also had a disturbing side — will shut down.
When he launched Omegle as in 2009, then-18-year-old founder Leif K-Brooks saw the internet as a “global village,” he said in a long post Thursday. He said he wanted the site to be like “strolling down a street in that village, striking up conversations with the people you ran into along the way.”
But those random connections sometimes turned dark. And the site is shutting down in the wake of an 2021 lawsuit filed in Oregon that accused Omegle of matching a user who was 11 at the time with a sexual predator, the AP reported, citing court records.
Omegle allowed users to randomly chat with strangers over text or video. They’d be matched randomly with someone in less than a minute, or they could choose to chat with someone who listed similar interest areas.
It was an instant success, K-Brooks said — and it served as the subject of viral YouTube videos during its heyday.It also had a resurgence with isolated teens during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the New York Times.
Still, critics have called it out over the years concerning the safety of minors online. K-Brooks acknowledged the “lowlights” of Omegle in his statement. He said the site had reached its “breaking point.”
Days before announcing the end of Omegle, the company settled a the Oregon civil claim. “There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes,” K-Brooks wrote.
Although popularity dipped over the years as Gen Z stopped having sleepovers and daring each other to chat with strangers, Omegle still had over 50 million visitors last month, analytics firm SimilarWeb reported.
“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. I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep fighting for you,” K-Brooks wrote.
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