The big picture: Omegle was the brainchild of then 18-year-old Leif K-Brooks, and has been billed as many things over the years. It was a unique way to meet new people, an outlet to have conversations that might be too risky or awkward to conduct face to face, a way to receive advice from an impartial third party, and an app to simply help pass the time.
The Internet is a slightly different place today, and it is too early to know whether it is for better or for worse.
Omegle launched in March 2009 as a free chat service with a twist. Rather than a meeting place for friends, the service randomly connected total strangers – "You" and "Stranger" – for one-on-one conversations about any and everything. If for whatever reason you no longer wanted to speak to "Stranger," simply end the chat and either try again with another Randy or move on with your day.
Virtually any tool can be used for good or evil, and Omegle certainly had its share of the latter. In K-Brooks' own words, it seems like the whole world has become more ornery in recent years, and a subset of people used the service to commit unspeakably heinous crimes.
Omegle's moderators stood up to the misuse and even worked with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to put some baddies behind bars. The team also employed cutting-edge artificial intelligence to help weed out the bad apples. But according to K-Brooks, the fight against crime is never one that can truly be one. Simply put, the stress and expense of the never-ending battle took its toll.
"Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically," K-Brooks said. "Frankly, I don't want to have a heart attack in my 30s."
And just like that, Omegle is no more.
Omegle's struggles are not unique, as virtually every form of communication – online and otherwise – has and will continue to be exploited for nefarious purposes. Larger service providers have more resources to combat misuse, but they also have exponentially more users to manage.