Omegle[note 1] is a free online chat website that allows users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names "You" and "Stranger" or "Stranger 1" and "Stranger 2" in the case of Spy mode. The site was created by 18-year-old Leif K-Brooks of Brattleboro, Vermont, and was launched on March 25, 2009.[2][3] Less than a month after launch, Omegle garnered around 150,000 page views a day,[4] and in March 2010 the site introduced a video conferencing feature.

Omegle
Logo Omegle.svg
Type of site
Online chat
Voice chat
Video chat
Available inEnglish
Created byLeif K-Brooks
URLwww.omegle.com
CommercialNo
RegistrationNo
LaunchedMarch 25, 2009; 13 years ago (2009-03-25)

Comparisons have been made to early-1990s AOL.[5]

Features

Omegle was initially a text-only chat that paired users at random to communicate as "strangers". However, in 2010, Omegle introduced a video mode to complement the text chat mode, which pairs together strangers who are using webcams and microphones. The video chat also has a built in text window.

In 2011, the beta version of a new feature, "Spy Mode", was introduced. In Spy (Question) Mode, users have two options: to be the "spy" and ask a question of two strangers, or to discuss a question with another stranger. As the spy, the user inputs any question for the two strangers to answer or discuss and is able to view the discussion as a third party, albeit without being able to contribute further to the conversation. The spy can quit at any time without ending the chat for the two other strangers. If a user chooses to discuss a question instead, as in normal text mode, the user is paired with another stranger and can discuss the question the spy has asked up until the point the other stranger decides to disconnect and/or move on to another question.

In 2012, Omegle added a special new feature to the text and video modes, the option to input "interest" tags. Adding interests lets users be paired with a stranger who has something in common with the user. A user can input as many interests as they would like, and if no available match is found, the user is paired with a completely random stranger instead.

In 2013, an unmonitored version of the video chat mode was opened, leaving the original content moderator-regulated video section open to anyone aged thirteen and up as long as the content of his or her video stream is clean. Initially, questionable adult content in the video section of Omegle was filtered using image recognition algorithms only. The newer unmonitored video section allows consenting adults over the age of eighteen the freedom to view, and share with one another, uncensored explicit video streams.

In 2014, Omegle began experimenting with a "Dorm Chat" mode, which requires users to provide an email address ending in ".edu" to verify that they are associated with a college or university. Dorm Chat allows users to chat with their classmates and colleagues on Omegle.

In 2015, Omegle began implementing ReCaptcha security measures to help reduce the amount of bots on the site. This has, however, been met with complaints that bots remain while the legitimate use is excessively interrupted.

During late 2019 and early 2020, Omegle began criticizing the Chinese Communist Party, and expressing support for the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests, with an image of the American Flag on the front page with the words "Xi Jinping (General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) sure looks like Winnie the Pooh" over it.[6]

Controversy

Prior to early 2013, the site did not censor contributions through a profanity filter, and users have reported encountering nudity or sexual content on camera.[7] After January 2013, Omegle implemented a "monitored" video chat, to monitor misbehavior and protect people under the age of 18 from potentially harmful content, including nudity or sexual content. However, the monitoring is not very effective, and users can often skirt around bans.[8] To complement the monitored video chat, Omegle also has an "unmonitored" video chat that is not monitored for sexual content.[9] K-Brooks has acknowledged the questionable content of the site, at one time expressing disappointment at the way in which the site has been used.[7]

Omegle and other random chat websites experienced a surge of popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increase of popular YouTube and TikTok social influencers using the website.[10] This has also caused increase of minors using the website. Numerous advisories, bulletins and warnings have been issued by both local and state law enforcement, as there have been major increases in reports of cyber-crime involving sexual exploitation of minors occurring on Omegle due to the popularity surge.[11]

Omegle is currently facing a $22 million lawsuit which was filed in 2019, in regard to a former user of the site who became a victim of child sex exploitation. In 2014, the then 11 year-old plaintiff logged onto Omegle and encountered a Canadian pedophile who blackmailed her into digital sexual slavery. The lawsuit alleges that Omegle knowingly allowed the pairing of minors with pedophiles due to a splash screen warning that stated “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful”. Omegle has since removed this warning from the website.[12][13]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Regarding pronunciation, the creator describes it as "Oh-meg-ull. I used to just say that it's pronounced like a combination of 'omega' and 'Google', but apparently, a lot of people pronounce 'omega' as oh-mee-guh, which is just strange.".[1]

References

  1. ^ K-Brooks, Leif (19 October 2009). "Oh-meg-ull. I used to just say that it's pronounced like a combination of 'omega' and 'Google', but apparently, a lot of people pronounce 'omega' as oh-mee-guh, which is just strange". Reddit. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  2. ^ Brooks, Leif (30 March 2009). "Welcome to the Omegle blog!". Archived from the original on 3 April 2009.
  3. ^ "Omegle chat program can help you find love anonymously". 14 April 2009. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
  4. ^ Quenqua, Douglas (26 April 2009). "Tired of Old Web Friends? A New Site Promises Strangers". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  5. ^ O'Brien, Terrence (2 April 2009). "Omegle.com Lets You Anonymously Mess With Complete Strangers". Switched.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
  6. ^ Restar, Al (10 October 2019). "Omegle throws jabs at China: 'Xi = Pooh!'". Z6 Mag. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Chatroulette and Omegle: chat rooms with a twist". BBC News. 24 March 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  8. ^ "A Chat with Strangers: Fun or Dangerous?". 14 April 2015. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Omegle privacy policy". 1 February 2013. Archived from the original on 3 March 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  10. ^ Lorenz, Taylor (24 July 2020). "Oh, So We're Doing Random Video Chat Again?". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Slugoski, Kendra (9 March 2021). "Child luring and sextortion cases online spike since start of pandemic". Global News.
  12. ^ Fonrouge, Gabrielle (19 November 2021). "Omegle allowed child user to become pedophile's digital sex slave: suit". New York Post.
  13. ^ A.M. v. Omegle.com LLC (United States District Court for the District of Oregon 2019).

External links