Kim Dotcom's Mega launches Skype competitor MegaChat

Despite ongoing controversy surrounding his tech inventions, Dotcom releases a beta-stage Web tool that provides users with end-to-end encrypted video and audio communication.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Mega now has a new service: MegaChat. Mega

The controversial Mega, a storage locker for online content, on Thursday launched MegaChat, a communication platform designed to compete with the likes of Skype.

According to Mega founder Kim Dotcom, the new platform allows users to engage in end-to-end encrypted video and audio communication.

MegaChat, which was announced last year but didn't launch until now, will undoubtedly raise more controversy in light of the ongoing battle surrounding online data encryption and legal government access to that data. After leaks from former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden were revealed, technology companies, including Apple and Google, have taken to improving the encryption of their products to minimize the chances of outside actors -- including law enforcement -- to access online conversations.

Given the existing controversy surrounding Kim Dotcom, it may not be long before MegaChat faces the onslaught of governments fearing that criminals will turn to the company's new platform to communicate privately. For his part, Dotcom didn't shy away from that potential onslaught, as he thanked his development team in a tweet Thursday "for conspiring to provide secure and private file storage and communications solutions to the world."

Dotcom, whose real name is Kim Schmitz, initially made a name for himself after founding Megaupload, a file-hosting service that stored pirated content. Dotcom was arrested in 2012 in New Zealand after the US charged him for alleged criminal copyright infringement. Before Megaupload was discontinued three years ago, the service had more than 150 million users and was alleged to have cost the entertainment industry half a billion dollars.

Dotcom, who has battled extradition for years and lives freely in New Zealand, launched Mega, the follow-up to Megaupload, in 2013, in defiance of the charges against him. US law enforcement has been seeking his extradition in the hopes of bringing him to trial in the US.

Through it all, Dotcom continues to thumb his nose at the charges and extend Mega's product portfolio. He said on Thursday that while MegaChat comes with audio and video calling today, the platform will be adding text chat and conference calling "soon."

Because MegaChat is Web-based, users must sign up for an account, log in through the browser and click the Conversations icon on the Mega site. From there, they can place calls for free. Despite MegaChat being relatively light on features, Dotcom touted the platform's early success, saying that it tallied 500,000 calls "within just a few hours" of its launch. He also characteristically made a bold prediction for the future of Mega and MegaChat.

"Mega has over 15 million registered users now," Dotcom tweeted. "I think MegaChat could elevate us to 100+ million users by the end of 2015."