After more than 14 years, Omegle, a well-known online chat service that let users connect and converse with strangers, shut down due to increasing abuse, which included the commission of “unspeakably heinous crimes.”
Throughout its entire existence, Omegle was funded entirely by its founder, Leif K-Brooks, a high school student and programmer who was just 18 years old at the time. Even though its popularity has declined over time, analytics company SimilarWeb estimates that it attracted roughly 50 million visitors in the most recent month.
“As much as I wish circumstances were different, the stress and expense of this fight – coupled with the existing stress and expense of operating Omegle, and fighting its misuse – are simply too much. Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically. Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s,” he wrote.
Omegle came under fire when the pandemic caused the service to become a haven for many dubious activities, leading to a spike in its usage. Although the company has made several improvements over the years, according to K-Brooks, the “recent attacks have felt anything but constructive.”
The service seems to have been run by K-Brooks alone, and he expressed disappointment at how much the internet has changed in the last ten years.
“The battle for Omegle has been lost, but the war against the Internet rages on. Virtually every online communication service has been subject to the same kinds of attack as Omegle; and while some of them are much larger companies with much greater resources, they all have their breaking point somewhere.
I worry that, unless the tide turns soon, the Internet I fell in love with may cease to exist, and in its place, we will have something closer to a souped-up version of TV – focused largely on passive consumption, with much less opportunity for active participation and genuine human connection.