The Rise of Webcams

A lot has changed over the last 15 years that have influenced the way we intimately connect with people online. We’ve seen the emergence of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Apps like Tinder allow you to scroll through profiles and find someone in an instant without having to go out and pick up someone at a bar. VR has gifted us with a way to make our sexual fantasies even more realistic. But if there’s one area that’s revolutionizing social and sexual interaction it’s online webcamming. In fact, these days more and more live cam sites have mobile interfaces, and new technologies like teledildonics are allowing us to control someone’s vibrator – even halfway across the world!

Webcamming has fascinated the porn biz so much so that XBIZ publisher Alec Hemly has dubbed it “the engine of the porn industry.” It has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with an average of 12,500 online performers. The site LiveJasmin alone draws in 9 million viewers per month, Chaturbate is the runner-up with 4.1 million, Cam4 is catching up with 3.7 million and MyFreeCams finishes off with 2 million. In fact, Cam4 and MyFreeCams (followed by Chaturbate) gave birth to the “freemium” cam site, where just like tubes, people were able to watch some of the best elements absolutely free.

So what is it about webcams that has the porn industry revving its engine like John Travolta at the end of Grease? What makes online webcamming so appealing? And where did it all start?

The Origin of Cams

Believe it or not, the origin of webcams starts with none other than the world’s favorite beverage: coffee. The first webcam was developed in 1991 by the fine folks in the computer department of Cambridge University. The camera was pointed to the coffee pot in the office and connected to everyone’s computer to save people the hassle of having to get up and discover an empty carafe. Talk about convenience. This coffee pot became quite popular, but was sadly retired in 2001.

In 1994 the first commercial webcam, QuickCam, was developed and it was a separate unit that you plugged into your monitor with a USB porn. Today we have more advanced technology as most laptops and computers have cameras embedded into the monitor.

The First Webcam Sites

Sites like Flirt4Free and have been around since 1996, and Streamate and iFriends have been bringing people together since 1999, but I think what really got the ball rolling was a little site called JenniCam that started with a girl named Jenny Ringley, an American college student who hooked up a live broadcast in her dorm room and had it running 24/7. People were able to watch her do things like brushing her teeth, doing her laundry, studying and, yes, giving sexy stripteases.

JenniCam was one of the first sites to broadcast content of this nature and was considered innovative for the times. It wasn’t until 1998, however, that she divided her site into free and paid subscriptions. Free meant you could watch everything except the sexy stuff. Also in 1998, Jenny faced some fierce competition in the form of AmandaCam. Amanda took things to the next level by enabling users to chat live with the performers. So not only did this technology change the way we communicate, but it created an entire workforce. We’ve come a long way since JenniCam, and these days a lady can make up to six figures a year webcamming if she’s lucky.

The Birth of a New Online Star

To become a cam model, all you need is a good webcam, an internet connection and a hosting service. The next step is to build an online profile and gain fans. A girl really needs to have her wits about her and be a skilled entrepreneur to reach that six-figure salary I mentioned. If she’s successful, she could be raking in the cash on a daily basis while sitting on her bed eating chicken nuggets in her underwear. Some performers have even used camming as a launchpad for the adult industry, getting scouted online and nailing contracts with well-known studios.

However, other advantages to being a webcam performer is that she isn’t tied down to a contract, has complete autonomy on the acts she chooses to perform and controls her own finances. Even popular porn stars have started camming outside of their regular work hours for personal gain. Another benefit of webcamming is that it can help underprivileged women, especially those living in developing countries. It gives them the opportunity to make money and improve their circumstances.

Many girls build a clientele through social media and stay connected with their fans on a regular basis. They understand the important of building relationships. Following their Twitter account, for example, will keep you up to date on when your favorite girl will be performing next. It also gives you a glimpse into their private life when they share personal videos or candid shots of their vacation or from a party they attended.

A New Kind of Intimacy

While it’s always a treat to watch our favorite pornstars performing on screen, there’s something even more erotic about interacting with someone live in real time. Webcamming breaks down barriers and allows us to connect more intimately with another person. This is why cam sites generate a large crowd, as users are looking for an intimate and emotional experience through one-on-one interaction.

Live cam girls possess a certain magic. She could be your online Mistress, your virtual girlfriend or just someone you chat with once a week. The beauty of it is that she can be whatever you want and need her to be. The babes are able to create a “hangout atmosphere” where they can communicate and entertain, whether this includes sex or not. It gives people the chance to interact with one another and take turns flirting with the girls and getting her to do things, which can be as simple as making her laugh.

Cams For Intellectual Stimulation?

Research has found that men are more comfortable expressing their needs in a webcam setting than they would in, say, a stripclub and the majority of these needs are of an emotional nature, something a porn star can’t always provide. Ethnography researcher Dr. Theresa Senft went undercover as a cam girl when preparing for her book Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks (Peter Lang: 2008). She performed for a year and describes herself as an “academic camgirl.” She realized that most of the people wanting to chat with her were well-established professionals looking for a little nudity and intellectual stimulation. Harvard postgraduate student Anna Katzen supports these findings as she’s also of the “academic camgirl” variety and she says that the majority of her fans want her to read aloud, either academic books or erotica, while she’s nude. Looks like the “smart girl” persona is what’s most attractive these days. Perhaps for some, it’s more organic and authentic.

How Does This Affect the Porn Industry?

When you’ve been the big cheese for so long and suddenly cute girls with webcams come prancing around, taking away all the attention, wouldn’t you be a little… peeved? Now I don’t want to paint the adult biz in a bad light, but based on this new form of intimacy, it does take away a little bit of sunshine from the movie business. This is only natural when we live in a society with constantly changing tastes. There’s clearly something more appealing about webcams. People are looking for more authentic relationships and one-on-one experiences.

Another factor has to do with female empowerment. While the porn industry has been male-dominated for a long time, it’s mostly women who dominate on cam sites and make the big bucks. Girls don’t need to rely on a studio or an agent and prefer the independence of managing their own affairs. They don’t need anything except a webcam and the internet, with the luxury of performing in the privacy of their own home.

All Hail the New Online Queen

There’s no doubt that webcamming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as long as cute girls are willing to show off their tits and flirt with people online. It’s a booming industry that’s taken the adult entertainment world by force and is also a reflection of changing times. We’re no longer limited when it comes to fulfilling our desires and we don’t have to venture too far to have those needs met. Online romance and virtual friendships are what people seem to crave these days and while pornstars are not going anywhere, it looks like the webcam performer is taking over as the new Queen B.