FogCam!, the World’s Longest-Running Webcam, Is Shutting Down

ARL0886/iStock via Getty Images
ARL0886/iStock via Getty Images / ARL0886/iStock via Getty Images

Nowadays, you can livestream anything from yo-yo contests to bats, penguins, puffins, and killer whales. But 25 years ago, when the internet was still relatively uncharted territory, mundanity ruled the world wide web. It was during that time that Jeff Schwartz (a.k.a. Webdog) and Dan Wong (a.k.a. Danno), two students earning their master’s degrees in instructional technologies at San Francisco State University, decided to set up FogCam!, a live stream that documented a typical day on campus.

Today, that webcam—which was inspired by the University of Cambridge’s Trojan Coffee Pot cam—is the oldest continuously operating webcam in the world. But all that is about to change. As The New York Times reports, FogCam! will be shutting down for good at the end of August.

Since 1994, FogCam! has been tracking student life at San Francisco State University by being placed in various spots around campus and capturing images every 20 seconds. Though its design is relatively rudimentary—it's just a Mac computer and a camera Schwartz and Wong purchased from the campus bookstore—it didn't take long for FogCam! to find a unique way to serve a real purpose for students: It could help them find open parking spots or see which lines were shortest at coffee shop Café Rosso. But 25 years later, the camera's creators feel like FogCam! has served its purpose.

“We felt it was time to let it go,” Schwartz told SF Gate. “The bottom line is that we no longer have a really good view or place to put the camera. The university tolerates us, but they don’t really endorse us and so we have to find secure locations on our own.” Schwartz said that over the years school administrators have threatened to shut the camera down ... but FogCam! prevailed. Now, Schwartz and Wong are ready to retire it on their own terms.

The end of FogCam! marks the end of an era, an innovative period when you could livestream any old thing without thinking about it from a business or marketing standpoint. “It was a throwback to the time when anyone could publish anything,” Schwartz told The New York Times. “A lot of people were experimenting. It wasn’t very exciting. But it didn’t matter.”

As for finding an open spot in the university parking lot: as of September, students are on their own.