are small cameras (usually, thoughnot always,video cameras), whose images can be accessed using theWorld WideWeb,instant messaging, or a PC video conferencing application. The term webcamis also used to describe the low-resolution digital video cameras designed for suchpurposes, but which can also be used to record in a non-real-time fashion.Web-accessible cameras involve a digital camera which uploads images to awebserver, either continuously or at regular intervals. This may be achieved by acamera attached to a PC, or by dedicated hardware.Videoconferencingcamerastypically take the form of a small camera connected directly to a PC. Analogcameras are also sometimes used (often of the sort used forclosed-circuit television
Started in 1991, the first webcam, called the CoffeeCam, was pointed at theTrojanroom coffee potin the computer science department of Cambridge University. Thiswebcam is now defunct, as it was finally switched off onAugust 22,2001. The finalimage captured by the camera can still be viewed at the webcam's homepage.The oldest webcam still operating is FogCam atSan Francisco State University,which has been running continuously since 1994
One of the most widely reported-on webcam sites wasJenniCam, started in 1996,which allowed Internet users to constantly observe the life of its namesake,somewhat like reality TV seriesBig Brother, launched three years later
. Morerecently, the websiteJustin.tvhas shown a continuous video and audio stream froma mobile camera mounted on the head of the site's star.Recently, Apple and other computer hardware manufactures began buildingwebcams directly into laptop and desktop screens. This eliminates the need to use anexternal usb or firewire webcam. This has been branded the NiK-cam.
ThisAxiscamera can be connected directly to a network or the Internet, via anRJ45connector on its rear. Users can access the picture by connecting to an onboardweb server.In addition to use for personalvideoconferencing, it was quickly realised thatWorldWide Webusers enjoyed viewing images from cameras set up by others elsewhere inthe world. While the term "webcam" refers to the technology generally, the firstpart of the term ("web-") is often replaced with a word describing what can beviewed with the camera, such as anetcamorstreetcam. Educators can use webcamsto take their students on virtual field trips.Today there are millions of webcams that provide views into homes, offices andother buildings as well as providing panoramic views of cities (Metrocams) and thecountryside. Webcams are used to monitor traffic with TraffiCams, the weatherwith WeatherCams and evenvolcanoeswith VolcanoCams. Webcam aggregatorsallow viewers to search for specific webcams based on geography or other criteria.