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A webcam is a video camera which feeds its images in real time to a computer or computer network, often via USB, ethernet or Wi-Fi.

Their most popular use is the establishment of video links, permitting computers to act as videophones or videoconference stations. This common use as a camera for the world wide web gives the webcam its name. Other popular uses include security surveillance and computer vision.

Webcams are known for their low manufacturing costs and flexibility,[1] making them the lowest cost form of videotelephony. They have also become the source of security and privacy issues, as some inbuilt webcams can be remotely activated via spyware.



First employed in 1991, a webcam was pointed at the Trojan Room coffee pot in the Cambridge University Computer Science Department. The camera was finally switched off on August 22, 2001. The final image captured by the camera can still be viewed at its homepage.[2][3] The oldest webcam still operating is FogCam at San Francisco State University, which has been running continuously since 1994.[4]

One of the most widely reported-on webcam sites was JenniCam, started in 1996, which allowed Internet users to observe the life of its namesake constantly, somewhat like reality TV series Big Brother, launched three years later.[5] More recently, the website has shown a continuous video and audio stream from a mobile camera mounted on the head of the site's star. Other cameras are mounted at bridges, public squares, and other public places, their output made available on a public Web page in accordance with the original concept of a "webcam". Aggregator websites have arisen, providing thousands of live video streams or up-to-date still pictures, allowing users to find live video streams based on location or other criteria.

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