FogCam, which is believed to be the oldest webcam on the internet, will be shut down at the end of August after 25 years of near-continuous operation. Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong, who set up the webcam while students at San Francisco State University back in 1994, announced the decision via Twitter, where they thanked their viewers and the university for their support over the years.
In an interview with SFGate, Schwartz provided more details on the decision to take the webcam offline. “The bottom line is that we no longer have a really good view or place to put the camera,” he said, “The university tolerates us, but they don’t really endorse us and so we have to find secure locations on our own.” Although the webcam feed will be gone, the site it’s hosted on will stay online “for sake of posterity,” he said.
FogCam’s 25-year run has meant that it outlasted another of the web’s earliest webcams. Cambridge University’s coffee pot cam came online a year earlier in 1993, after one scientist who worked at the university wanted a way to check the status of a coffee pot remotely, rather than risk turning up and discovering it empty. “It didn’t vary very much,” the scientist, Quentin Stafford-Fraser, told BBC News back in 2012, “It was either an empty coffee pot, or a full one, or in more exciting moments, maybe a half-full coffee pot and then you’d have to try and guess if it was going up or down.”
However, despite growing in popularity to the extent that American tourists in Cambridge would reportedly ask tour guides to show them the computer lab where the coffee pot was located, the webcam was taken offline less than a decade later, after the code underpinning it became almost impossible to maintain.
In this context, FogCam’s 25 years of operation is far more impressive. It survived the growth of the early internet, the takeover of Web 2.0, and then gained a new lease of life as a new era of viewers discovered it through social media. If you’re looking for another webcam to replace it, then I’m quite fond of the one pointed at the Abbey Road crossing in London, where you can witness Beatles fans repeatedly bringing traffic to a halt in order to grab a shot of them walking across the iconic zebra crossing.