Anyone who has attended middle school in the last 14 years possesses robust knowledge of exactly the service that Omegle provided, despite the optimism of its founder, Leif K-Brooks. It's where adolescents dare each other to visit and click through a barrage of lewd images. K-Brooks intended to create a website that facilitated interactions with random strangers, a sort of global online coffee shop. He wanted interested parties to initiate conversation with each other on thought-provoking topics without the need to, say, be enrolled in a college. And if you didn't like where the conversation was going, you could click and leave it instantly. It's not a bad premise. Immediately after its release, it became very popular.
It "had something to do with meeting new people being a basic human need," said K-Brooks. However, Omegle became synonymous with another basic human need. And this function consumed roughly 70% of interactions on the site. While rifling through a barrage of penises can be amusing, and anthropologically interesting—this is what the majority of humanity does with total anonymity?—there was, naturally, a darker aspect to the platform. After several lawsuits arguing that Omegle facilitated connecting minors with sexual predators, K-Brooks reluctantly shut down the site. The page that once displayed penis upon penis now reads like an obituary.
How shall we comfort ourselves, with our blatant misuse of optimistic internet? This site that became the unholiest and most formative of our adolescence? The website has bled to death under our knives. Must we ourselves not create another form of random anonymous stranger interaction to appear worthy of continued internet use? Oh wait, we have that, it's Chatroulette, and it's potentially grosser than Omegle ever was.
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. If that sounds like a bad idea to you, please consider donating to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that fights for your 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. I'm so sorry I couldn't keep fighting for you.