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Omegle has disconnected: Online chat platform shuts down after 14 years

By NICK GARCIA Published Nov 09, 2023 11:28 am

The good ol’ days of “ASL,” “top or bottom,” and “Stranger has disconnected” are no more. Free online chat platform Omegle has shut down after 14 years of operations, its founder announced.

Instead of getting access to Omegle’s white interface, users will see a photo of a gravestone bearing Omegle’s logo, dated 2009 to 2023, followed by an open letter from Leif K-Brooks upon visiting the website.

The letter begins with two epigraphs from English authors C.S. Lewis and Douglas Adams about tyranny and anger, respectively.

Leif reflects on the internet being a “magical place” he discovered during childhood, a period in which he survived rape. For him, the physical world was risky and the internet gave him refuge.

“I was under no illusion that only good people used the Internet,” he said, “but I knew that, if I said ‘no’ to someone online, they couldn’t physically reach through the screen and hold a weapon to my head, or worse.”

Leif founded Omegle when he was 18, still living with his parents, saying it was meant to build on the things he loved about the internet and introduce a form of social spontaneity that he felt didn’t exist elsewhere.

While Omegle quickly had millions of daily users and saw highlights like strangers giving wholesome advice to each other and soulmates meeting on the platform, Leif noted lowlights like users committing “unspeakably heinous crimes.”

Though Omegle had human and AI moderators and worked with authorities and actually sent evildoers to prison, Leif said, “the fight against crime isn’t one that can ever truly be won.”

“In recent years, it seems like the whole world has become more ornery,” he said. “Maybe that has something to do with the pandemic, or with political disagreements.”

He noted that “people have become faster to attack and slower to recognize each other’s shared humanity” online, including on Omegle.

Leif said they implemented a number of improvements based on constructive feedback over the years. Recent attacks, however, were no longer constructive.

“The only way to please these people is to stop offering the service,” he said.

Leif noted he did his best to weather the attack with the interest of Omegle’s users, but “what is right doesn’t always prevail.”

“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,” Leif said.

“Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically,” he added. “Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s.”

He asked users to consider donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that fights for users’ rights online.

“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,” Leif said.

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep fighting for you.”

On Omegle, users are randomly paired in one-on-one chat sessions anonymously. The platform also had a video call function.