Omegle, a popular online chat service that allowed individuals to connect and talk with strangers, has shut down after more than 14 years citing growing misuse of the platform, including in committing “unspeakably heinous crimes.”
The site, founded in 2009 by a then 18-year-old programmer and high school student Leif K-Brooks, was bootstrapped throughout its existence. Though it waned in popularity over the years, it still pulled about 50 million visitors last month, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I launched Omegle. Would anyone even care about some Web site that an 18 year old kid made in his bedroom in his parents’ house in Vermont, with no marketing budget? But it became popular almost instantly after launch, and grew organically from there, reaching millions of daily users. I believe this had something to do with meeting new people being a basic human need, and with Omegle being among the best ways to fulfill that need,” K-Brooks wrote in a blog post.
Omegle received criticism after the service became a breeding ground for a lot of sketchy activities during the pandemic, which delivered a surge in its usage. K-Brooks said the firm tried to implement a number of improvements over the years, but the “recent attacks have felt anything but constructive.”