November 8, Omegle got shut down. While a lot of people were sad, my friends and I were excited. I'd like to explain this with a simple analogy: Nobody likes to get sick, but banking on people's misery is a doctor's job. Never mind that, we decided to create an open-source alternative to Omegle. Our goal was to replicate Omegle's experience.
We started this project with a lot of enthusiasm, dreaming of fame and millions of dollars. With this hope in mind, we began developing our website. We spent days and nights developing and testing it. With each iteration, our excitement doubled. Finally, it was there—a perfect Omegle replacement with all the original features.
We didn't want our website to be just a cheap Omegle ripoff; we wanted it to have its own identity. So, we began the journey of naming it. Many ideas were proposed, but we decided to give it an Indian touch. After almost 4 hours of heated discussion, we settled on the name "Ajnabee". At that time, we didn't realize this could be a bad decision later on.
We wanted our website to make it big, so we started devising marketing strategies. We knew many YouTubers had channels solely based on Omegle content, and there was a buzz around Omegle being gone. The iron was hot, and striking it at the right time was crucial. We also knew Reddit was a good place for organic traction, and we found some Facebook groups.
So, we began scraping and collecting a lot of YouTubers' emails. This process took a few days, and finally, we had around 350 emails. We also targeted a few subreddits, some Facebook groups, and Twitter. We planned to send it to all our WhatsApp groups as well.
The day came when the website went live. Everything looked perfect. We were ready for a BIG LAUNCH!!!, dreaming of drowning in millions the next day. LET'S GO, BABY.
We had prepared our message template for all social media websites. Our first step was to send emails to all the YouTubers, post on a few subreddits, Facebook groups, and share the website in all our WhatsApp groups. But little did we know, several challenges awaited us.
We found an app script to automatically mail a bunch of participants. CTRL-C, CTRL-V, a bit of tweaking, and send. Started sending... Our excitement began to rise. We had our fingers crossed.
Couldn't send email, daily quota exceeded. Out of 50, the rest had failed. We started panicking. Our perfect strategy was starting to crumble. In a rush, we copied the email and tried sending it with different Gmail accounts. To send all the emails, we needed several accounts. For some reason, the next Gmail account was able to send most of the emails, and we somehow finished sending them. We then started posting on subreddits, Facebook groups, and sent messages to all our friends on WhatsApp.
Everyone opened the website on their devices, waiting for "Ajnabees" to connect. Our friends from WhatsApp started showing up. We were excited. A few people from different countries also joined. We peaked at 15 users (woohoo!!) for around 30 minutes, and then the number started to fall. We quickly checked our posts and saw that most of our Reddit posts were deleted by mods or automods for promotion, and the few that remained didn't get any traction. The same happened on other social media platforms. We still hoped the YouTubers would see our email and give us a shoutout, catapulting our website to instant fame. It was 2 AM already, and we were all exhausted, so we decided to sleep and leave the rest to time.
The next day, the response was dry. 95% didn't respond, and those who did wanted a paid collaboration. Sure, why not? Some broke college students would definitely go for a paid collab. We were all disappointed.
Did I mention our entire project was open source? Meanwhile, I received an issue on GitHub where a person wanted to chat with us. When I contacted him, he requested permission to host his own version of the website. Sure, why not? If we, IITians, couldn't crack it, why not let this man try his luck? Whatever...
A few days later, we were browsing some Omegle subreddits, and there was a website called "omegleweb.com" being talked about a lot. It was an exact replica of Omegle, and people seemed to like it. When I opened the website, it looked eerily familiar.
**Right-click, inspect**. This was our code. Bro, what the...
I couldn't believe the person who had contacted me was successful in marketing the website better than us. He had some unusual ways of marketing, but it was working. Even the wankers had started to show up on his version, lol. It was a bit sad that we had put in so much effort and hard work, but nobody acknowledged it, and everyone was talking about omegleweb.com.
We tried a few more ways to bounce back, but nothing seemed to be working. I believe the name and branding threw a lot of people off, whereas "omegleweb.com" felt right at home. There are a few more things that happened, but I would like to avoid them here. This is how the story ended, and there are some lessons we definitely learned. Maybe next time you see something big being developed, it could be us... maybe?
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