First of all, in the quarantine, came the Zoom boom. Then, right afterwards, nobody could take video calls anymore. There, they all became game fans and started receiving visitors on their virtual islands. The world of video calls also had raves, meetings, meditations and movie nights, all on the internet. Now, months later and with no sign of the virus leaving, it seems that we have reached a new phase of boredom and isolation: it is “let’s-meet-people-new-online”.
Bazoocam a site that puts random visitors to chat through video chats and calls, has gained popularity in the past four months. (“Why is everyone on Omegle, did I miss something?”, Someone posted on Twitter the other day).
Bazoocam looks like Chatroulette – which was already very popular and which is also experiencing a renaissance – because it is free, does not require registration and promises an amazing social experience. Visitors can choose keywords to filter people with common interests. Those in college can enter a .edu email address, which the site uses to verify identities, and thus find other college students. There is also, predictably, an “adult” section – and you should be careful with it.
The site has been around for over a decade – it was founded in 2009, a few months before Chatroulette, by technology entrepreneur Leif K-Brooks, who was 18 at the time and did not respond to an interview request. He spent a lot of time ostracizing, but recently came back from the ashes – especially among teenagers who were feeling isolated for months of remote classes and little face-to-face socialization. “In the past few months, I saw the same people and did the same things,” said YouTuber Cole Giannasca, 18. “The novelty and the possibility of meeting someone in the world seems much better now than before the quarantine”.
Video recordings on Omegle have been helping creators to generate and viralize content for other platforms. Youtubers are getting millions of video views on the “adult” section of Omegle (for people over 18), fighting off attackers on Omegle, cosplaying on Omegle, pretending to be celebrities on Omegle, staying on Omegle for up to 48 hours straight , Among other things.
Omegle has been a boon for generation Z influencers, who use the site to improvise virtual meetings and events. YouTube star Emma Chamberlain threw a birthday party at Omegle in May. Many TikTok stars have used the platform to surprise fans who are looking for other enthusiasts on the site through their filters.
“Everyone started selecting TikTokers,” said Michael Le, 20, a TikTok star with almost 35 million followers. Influencers often broadcast their fans’ reactions live on TikTok. “It’s like a giant fast dating game with your fans,” said Alex Warren, 19, youtuber and member of Hype House.
The site has a Web 2.0 aesthetic and carries a number of subtle political messages. The Omegle home page shows a “public service announcement” comparing China’s president, Xi Jinping, with Winnie the Pooh. And at the top of all chat boxes, a phrase appears asking visitors to “Support Hong Kong against the Chinese Communist Party!”
Like Chatroulette and other sites that approach visitors randomly, there can be unpleasant – and explicit – surprises. On the home page, the company says: “We know that abusers use Omegle, so be careful”.
“There is always a shock factor,” said youtuber Nailea Devora, 18. “There is a lot of pornography. We just filmed our reactions, it’s like, ‘bro, I didn’t want to see this thing!’ People are curious to see what will happen next, what the next stranger will do. I think, for the most part, we are just teenagers wanting to meet people, but it can get a little strange and sinister ”.