I normally wouldn’t post about a trendy web app but it has so much in common with an iPhone app I recently discussed that I thought it might be interesting to mention it. The app I’m speaking of, which has recently gained quite a bit of web popularity, is called Omegle (official blog here).
Omegle is a simple but quite interesting app. When you go to the site, all you have to do is click the “Start a Chat” button and you’re off. There is no registration, no downloads, no wait time. But who are you chatting with? Well, that’s the interesting thing. You are chatting to another person, selected completely at random, who is also using Omegle. There are no names, no information at all on who you are chatting to. It is completely anonymous. By the way, the creator of Omegle is apparently 18 years old.
The iPhone app this reminded me of immediately is Distant Shore. Distant Shore has the same anonymity, the same concept of conversing with complete strangers. However, in Distant Shore, the exchanges are by “messages in bottles tossed into the sea.” So there is a significant delay between responses. With Omegle the communication is always active and immediate. You can think of the difference as similar to that between e-mail and IM. Another difference is that in Distant Shore the key aspect, talking to random people, is surrounded by a game of sorts. You have the beach atmosphere, the collection of shells, the inventory. Omegle strips all of this away and gives you the conversation immediately.
That’s not to say one is better and one is worse. If you wish to get to the talking right away, Omegle is for you. If you prefer the whole atmospheric approach, you should try Distant Shore. Or you can use both of them…depending on what you are in the mood for. That’s what I’ve been doing and I feel like they both have their place in this wacky world of random chatting.
I will say that the overall quality of the conversations I’ve had are better in Distant Shore than Omegle. I think it’s because the atmosphere is conducive to taking the time to write actual messages. And people who spend the time collecting shells will likely take the time to write something of value. Not to mention that if you’re going to buy the app, you probably want to actually use it. On Omegle, it’s so easy for anyone to click that button that you get more people who just want to screw around. And there seems to be a lot of lurkers - people who lose their nerve or something. Because I often find people will just disconnect after you say hello. There’s also a lot more people looking for sex chat on Omegle…so hey - if that’s your thing Omegle is the place for you.
I’ve certainly had some really good conversations on Omegle and met some very interesting people. And the immediate chat thing does provide a bit of a bigger rush than sending a letter. But the probability of getting someone to speak rationally with is lower. On the other hand, with Omegle if you don’t like the conversation or the person is not responding it only takes one second to start a new session. I’ll mainly stick to Distant Shore myself but I’ll probably mess around with Omegle from time to time.
I was unsure what to think about Distant Shore in many ways. And I still don’t have the answers to the questions I raised in that post. The same questions apply to Omegle. Is this kind of communication exciting? Educational? Sad? Depressing? I’m not sure, but I do find the whole thing interesting. Try it for yourself and see what you think.
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