|This is the website that was RobCamLive from London, started on March 10th 1998 and which eventually stopped broadcasting regularly in early 2010.
The website started when I bought a webcam with some birthday money in early March 1998, the internet in the UK was still in its infancy, all connections were on dial-up telephone modems (which were billed by each minute you were connected) and moving pictures were almost unheard of. I had seen a webcam site from America, and with its one-frame-a-minute refresh rate, I knew what I wanted to do with my webcam, so I did some research (there wasn't a decent search engine back then, finding things was pot luck and often down to links on people's home pages) and found out how to write a web page and upload still images from my webcam every few seconds to a page that refreshed. The fastest I could do was every 30 seconds as it took that long to upload a 320x240 pixel heavily compressed .jpg image! I did the first webcam broadcast on March 10th 1998 - I have no clue if anyone ever watched it! I added a chat room next to the cam image after a few weeks, and people started chatting, so much infact that I had to take it off as it took over my life!
In the early days I used my 'free web space' on Virgin.net to host the site, and they emailed me after a few months asking what I was doing, as I was receiving around 10,000 hits a month to my site... a full-page article about me and the other male UK cammer at the time (CJuk) pushed it up even more! RobCamLive was the second biggest traffic site on Virgin.net's servers, and they asked me to reduce it! As I clearly couldn't I moved the site to Badpuppy.com, and American adult entertainment site who hosted the site for free in return for advertising banners on my pages to their adult content. The only problem with this was uploading my picture from the UK to the US took longer, and although modems were improving, 14.4k to 36k to 56k, it still wasn't enough to give decent speeds. I eventually managed one frame every 15 seconds, but moving images were becoming the norm on the internet and faster refresh rates were expected. I also made a few camera upgrades, eventually using a hi-8 camcorder through a video capture card for the best quality image.
The website itself had three distinct design phases - the initial site which was VERY basic, just text and links, then the second site which was a photo of a star constellation with stars to click on for areas of the site, then finally the 'egg' design, with the rotating RobCamLive graphic at the top with all the buttons as grey eggs with red and green text on them. This final design was so popular that even when I suggested new logos and layouts, I was always told what I had was better! It lasted from 1999 onwards!
The site grew in content other than the webcam - at its peak it had more than 200 pages of content, all hand-written, with all design and graphics done by me. Some areas were experimental, others routine, but I had 'RobsWorld', an online diary of what I was doing, with pics, several years before anyone had heard of a 'blog', as well as a 'Hunk Of The Month' section where I persuaded hot guys to send me loads of revealing pics and post them throughout an interview with them!
The site started to lose popularity quickly when broadband was introduced in America, and the American cammers were able to provide 5 second refresh rates, then quickly followed up with streaming video. I was still struggling to get one frame every 30 seconds. BT didn't introduce broadband for 5 YEARS after it launched in America, even though they developed much of the technology - probably because they were making money out of all the telephone calls to the internet via modems... so the viewers to all the UK sites fell and never recovered. There was also a trend during this period for cammers to "perform sexually" which hadn't existed in the early days, but was almost expected by the early 2000's, and could only be done with streaming video.
By 2003, when I finally got broadband (as soon as it was available), the battle for any UK cammers to get any sort of audience had been well and truly lost. I kept the site going with two cams on a 15 second refresh and streaming cams available when I was in the house, but one month I had no hits to the site at all, so by 2007 I wan't putting much effort in to it. Following a house move in 2010 I didn't resume regular broadcasts, and turned the cams off completely in 2012, when Badpuppy stopped hosting the site due to lack of traffic, and following a legal challenge to a squatter as Badpuppy let my domain name go, I moved it to my local ISP's servers with just a small holding page. I have now written this page as an archive so anyone following an old link or who remembers the site has something to find! I also did it for me, as part of my life :-)
Would I do it again if I had my time again? Yes - I met a lot of great people by doing it, I made some very good close friends, and even got some sex out of it ;-)
Could it have gone further than it did? No - British Telecom dragged their feet SO much over the release of ADSL (Broadband) that we in the UK were a good 5 years behind the USA, despite the fact that they supplied much of the equipment and technology to get American broadband rolled out in the early days. We had lost ANY competitive edge by miles when we were actually able to do anything decent.
Will home webcams make a comeback? No - all people want to see is sex now. When the webcam sites started, nothing on the internet moved, apart from a few naff animated GIF cartoons. Cammers provided the first taste of something 'Live' and real, they made people aware of the possibilities, but that era has gone, just like families sitting round the radio set on a Sunday evening to hear a weekly radio programme has gone. I just hope that myself and all the other cammers helped pave the way for the live streaming internet we all enjoy today.