The video chat service Omegle has announced it is shutting down after 14 years, according to a statement from its founder Leif K-Brooks.
The platform, which was particularly popular with teenagers and children, connected users with strangers at random.
“Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically,” Brooks wrote in the statement. “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.”
Brooks founded Omegle in 2009 at the age of 18. The platform attracted millions of daily users over the years, and videos from the site have been shared widely on YouTube and social media platforms like TikTok.
But although it was meant as a tool to connect people worldwide, Omegle was marred by several cases of misuse.
“Virtually every tool can be used for good or for evil,” Brooks wrote. “There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes.”
Child pornography cases
On Thursday, the Omegle website was still live, showing Brooks’ statement, but its online video chat function was no longer available.
Omegle had faced significant scrutiny over the years, with critics accusing it of becoming a breeding ground for child abuse and, in particular, child pornography.
Just last week, Omegle settled a lawsuit involving the pairing of a then 11-year-old user with a sexual predator, according to court records.
The platform has been linked to more than 50 cases against pedophiles in the last two years, British public broadcaster BBC reported.
Brooks said Omegle was intended to “build on the things I loved about the Internet.” But, he admitted that over time a dark side of the platform emerged.
AP contributed to this report.
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