The San Francisco FogCam, believed to be the longest-running public webcam, was supposed to shut down at the end of August, 25 years after it began broadcasting images of life at San Francisco State University (and, on occasion, the city’s trademark fog).
But after recent news reports publicized the beloved webcam’s impending demise, the university decided to step in to “preserve and run it indefinitely,” according to the FogCam’s website.
“San Francisco State University can confirm it has agreed to continue maintaining the FogCam, which prevents shutdown of the service,” the website said. “San Francisco State University has supported operation of the FogCam since its inception in 1994, a major technology milestone at the time. The university looks forward to continuing the webcam’s legacy.”
The FogCam was originally set up by two students at the university, Jeff Schwartz, known online as Webdog, and Dan Wong, called Danno. They were studying instructional technologies at the Graduate College of Education at the time.
According to a 2004 interview with The Golden Gate Xpress, a student-run publication, the men bought the camera from a campus bookstore and sought to provide “a typical view of campus life,” long before the popularization of streaming video. The FogCam began capturing images every 20 seconds, as it still does today.
Over the decades, the webcam has drawn a sizable following as an everyday chronicle of the seemingly mundane.
Its location on campus has sometimes changed, partly because of run-ins with school administrators who threatened to shut it down on several occasions.
Wong and Schwartz had initially wanted to put the webcam in the student center, but they were denied access. They placed it in front of the student health center, in a room overlooking Tapia Drive, and, ultimately, on the edge of campus, facing Holloway Avenue.
The webcam was becoming harder to maintain. Schwartz told news website SFGate last month that “we no longer have a really good view or place to put the camera.”
“The university tolerates us,” he added, “but they don’t really endorse us, and so we have to find secure locations on our own.”
San Francisco State University did not respond to a request seeking comment Sunday evening. Neither did the FogCam’s creators.
Before he knew that the FogCam would not be turned off, Schwartz told The New York Times last month that it was easier to accept the end because internet ventures nowadays tended to be more corporate in nature.
“The big technology companies have stifled innovation,” he said. “They rake in billions of dollars by surveilling people who do — and don’t — buy products.”
Schwartz said he and Wong had never sought to make money with the FogCam.
“It was a throwback to the time when anyone could publish anything,” Schwartz said. “A lot of people were experimenting. It wasn’t very exciting. But it didn’t matter.”