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The End Is Nigh For FogCam, Billed As The Internet's Oldest Running Webcam

A sea of fog advances on the Golden Gate Bridge during a late winter twilight in 2016. On Saturday, the operators of <a href="http://www.fogcam.org/">FogCam</a> said the long-running webcam at San Francisco State University will sunset "forever" at the end of August.
A sea of fog advances on the Golden Gate Bridge during a late winter twilight in 2016. On Saturday, the operators of <a href="http://www.fogcam.org/">FogCam</a> said the long-running webcam at San Francisco State University will sunset "forever" at the end of August.

It has been a tumultuous quarter century for San Francisco, what with the rise of its neighbor, Silicon Valley, and the changes that came with it. But at least a couple of things have stayed reliably consistent, such as the distinctive Bay Area fog that's so familiar it even has a name ( just call it Karl) and the live webcam that watches it from the campus of San Francisco State University.

FogCam has been around since 1994. That's old enough to be commonly credited as the world's oldest webcam in operation — and one of the oldest websites, period.

But the end is coming for FogCam.

"After 25 years, Fogcam is shutting down forever at the end of August," the site's creators and administrators, nicknamed Webdog and Danno, tweeted on Saturday. They thanked the university and the cam's viewers, adding: "The Internet has changed a lot since 1994, but Fogcam will always have a special place in its history."

The two men, who respectively answer to Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong offline, didn't immediately clarify why they're finally pulling the plug. But Schwartz suggested to the San Francisco Chronicle that the cam's upkeep had just become too difficult.

"We felt it was time to let it go," he told the newspaper. "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 and Wong explain on their site that they've "slightly changed campus locations a few times as necessary over the years, to prevent being shut down by the university."

The FogCam's view of Holloway Avenue at San Francisco State University, seen at the time of writing. Come September, the cam's creators say, they'll be sunsetting these landmark glimpses of the mundane.
Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong / FogCam
The FogCam's view of Holloway Avenue at San Francisco State University, seen at the time of writing. Come September, the cam's creators say, they'll be sunsetting these landmark glimpses of the mundane.

They're careful to clarify on their site that though they may operate the oldest webcam that's (for now) still around, FogCam is not actually the Internet's first. That honor goes to a camera that was trained on a coffee percolator in the main computer lab at the University of Cambridge. The scientists who got it started in 1991 and brought it online in 1993 figured that having an eye on the appliance would help prevent the dangers of getting unpleasantly surprised by an empty pot.

The coffeepot cam lasted about 10 years before it was turned off.

Now, nearly two decades since that cam's demise, FogCam is eyeing its own approaching quietus, one ambling pedestrian at a time. It will broadcast its last shots online at the end of the month.

And it appears that Karl the Fog may come by to bid farewell in person. Currently, the forecast for that fateful day is partly cloudy.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.