2 min read

Omegle and the wild west of the web

Omegle and the wild west of the web

Omegle today has been shut down for unfortunately very predictable reasons. It and other similar services such as Chatroulette have long been known for their controversial, immoral and/or illegal content. I think part of the attraction to these sites has always been the morbid curiosity or shock factor.

There have been some very serious issues on these sites and they've been alluded on the final message on omegle.com. I think the last time I used these sites was back when they first became popular in the late 2000s, it was never particularly interesting to me beyond the initial novelty, and as I said, shock factor.

But in the meantime, whilst I had not since been back to these sites - it appears their popularity increased amongst the wrong types of people and it became an everlasting game of cat and mouse to stop and remove certain content.

So the death of Omegle (and I suspect Chat roulette inevitably following it at some point) doesn't have any particular meaning to me. I didn't use or care about these services themselves. But what made me stop and think about this, was that services like Omegle feel like some of the last surviving vestiges of the 'wild west' era of the web. At least amongst those that had any sort of significant user base.

These days most of people's consumption on the web is contained within gigantic platforms owned by mega corporations with often lacking content moderation, but still some form of content moderation and sometimes some consequences for posting bad, immoral or illegal content on them. That's more than can be said about many of the sites we used when we were younger.

By the time Omegle had come around in the late 2000s, we were already pretty much in this era of massive all-encompassing platforms. But there were still a few pockets of the old, they still felt like they were of that earlier era of the internet. These sites, with all sorts of user generated content, were run by individuals or small teams often for no real commercial purpose, and they were often a free-for-all in terms of their moderation.

It's the internet many people my age grew up on - and are nostalgic for some the good aspects of - so Omegle's shutdown feels symbolic. But it was shut down for very good reasons, there was some horrific content on there and it never really stopped by the sounds of it.