SF State Saves FogCam, Internet's Longest-Running Webcam, After it Almost Shuts Down

FogCam - which is admittedly trained on a less spectacular vista than this view of the Golden Gate Bridge's north tower - is nonetheless a piece of internet history. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Anyone wanting to evaluate the thickness of Karl the Fog, witness the view from the San Francisco State University campus, or simply see the live feed from the world’s longest-running webcam, will be able to continue visiting the San Francisco FogCam website for the foreseeable future.

FogCam's creators announced recently that the webcam would be shutting down at the end of this month — but S.F. State confirmed on Friday it will take over the project that began on its campus.

Fogcam's Close Call
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Monique Beeler, an S.F. State spokeswoman, confirmed that the university will take over maintaining the FogCam and thereby preventing the scheduled end of its run.

“San Francisco State University has supported operation of the FogCam since its inception in 1994, a major technology milestone at the time," Beeler wrote in an emailed statement. "The University looks forward to continuing the webcam’s legacy."

S.F. State students Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong created the FogCam in 1994 by stitching together a Mac and a Quick Camera through custom-made software in the Department of Instructional Technologies.

A screenshot from FogCam from Aug. 30, 2019.
A screenshot from FogCam from Aug. 30, 2019. (The San Francisco FogCam)

Notably, FogCam wasn’t the world’s first webcam.

The first — pointed at a coffee pot at the University of Cambridge to monitor its fullness — began broadcasting online in 1993. But the Trojan Room Coffee Pot camera shut down in 2001, making FogCam the world’s oldest webcam still running.

Visitors of the FogCam site can see image captures of San Francisco fog and campus life, updated every 20 seconds. Over the years, the camera was typically pointed at Holloway Avenue, but its view would sometimes be changed to the line at on-campus coffee shop Cafe Rosso, in tribute to the Trojan Room Coffee Pot.

Schwartz and Wong, who refer to themselves online as Webdog and Danno, announced Aug. 17 on Twitter that the camera would be shutting down at the end of August. Schwartz suggested to SFGate that the duo originally planned to end the webcam because of the challenges posed by its upkeep.

"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 told SFGate in an article published the day after the announcement.

History of Karl
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But as more news coverage appeared in the days that followed, many Twitter users tweeted at the FogCam, describing the decision as the “end of an era” or pleading for the team to continue the project — and its record as the world’s longest-running webcam. S.F. State’s Twitter account began its own hashtag regarding the project, #SaveTheFogCam.

Schwartz handed over the FogCam to S.F. State on Aug. 28, he told KQED.

“The original intention of FogCam was in large part to promote the university and the Department of Instructional Technologies and this is in keeping with that original intent,” Schwartz said.

“It’s theirs now,” he added with a laugh.

The webcam will celebrate its 25th birthday on Sept. 30.

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