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Dave 24/7 Webcam

Current image of Buffalo skyline.

Yep, it's a 24/7 webcam trained on my spot in front of the computer. The image is updated approximately once a minute but for a self-refreshing window you need to view the pop-up viewer.

Webcams like these were popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Everyone knows about the first one. Back then it looked like we were well on our way to a utopian world where everyone would have a webcam focused on them as they lived their lives inside their homes and offices. Alas, after the brief period of flirtation people suddenly began rolling their webcams back.

I should inject here that the way that I make it sound everyone was inclined to do this. Really though, personal webcams were the realm of technical enthusiasts who loved the attention. But there were a lot of these types including yours truly.

The Decline of a Really Neat Thing

What happened? Probably a lot of things. First, there is the fact that after the initial novelty bluster of allowing anyone at anytime to see what you're doing, some most people were soon creeped out or bothered by the idea. When the consumer web was young people were enthralled by maximum outreach, of which a personal always-on webcam was just a part of. But gradually people began to realize the perils and dangers involved. Having a public webcam pointed at your family soon made the top of the list of recklessly dangerous Interwebs stuff.

Webcams were also directly tied to desktop PCs which were soon replaced by portable laptops and mobile devices. As hard drives and screen monitors slowly failed sans any replacement (why bother when the new laptop was doing everything the desktop did, but portably?) any webcam driven by them was simply abandoned. A novelty in the first place, people weren't going to go out and buy a dedicated desktop computer just to keep the fun going.

And that assumes any webcam made it that far into the evolution of digital hardware in the first place. Since most personal webcams were set up ad hoc on whim technical problems were rarely addressed if they took time and money to fix. If a webcam driver update was required during an OS upgrade, a certain segment of people just weren't going to bother.

Even up and running fine, webcams weren't always. Simple or complex, it took a bit of ongoing attention to keep one up minute to minute. People who failed to bargain for the constant adjustments were probably discouraged when their "24/7" webcams turned out not to be.

I'd say by 2006 or so personal webcams were the strict stuff of women commercializing themselves, some in a ramp-up to monetized adult cam sites (some of these innocuous personal webcam sites gradually morphed into adult sites, and some adult cam sites posed as innocuous personal ones). Whatever the precise timeline it gradually became more difficult to find "new and clean" personal webcams in Google.

Today there are webcam sites left. However these tend to be heavily commercialized and even (in my opinion) "overdone" in that they tend to involve livestreaming by default. Enterprise operations like Earthcam host "mass appeal" cam systems but very few if any personal cams. Unstated as it may be the final public consensus is that open webcams do have a useful place in society, just not in our homes or where we sit working. And, with traffic cams being a stark exception, few if anyone sees the point if they are not somehow making money for their operators.

Obviously I run my webcam in stark rebellion of all this common sense or concern. It is cool to be able to drop in on someone without the overhead of Skype or Google Hangouts to see if they are available, or, just to bind in the most passive of ways. A webcam image that updates just once a minute is, technically speaking at a data transfer level, much more efficient than providing a full fledge stream. I suspect that as data capping and metered service begin to take over, people and video conferencing services may opt to add incremental image updating as an option to their platforms.

You can check out the Dave the Web Guy Webcam Directory for examples of other cam sites that are still keeping it all real today.

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