Today’s world is centered around being able to easily communicate. Whether it’s by talking to a client on the phone for a business deal, or texting a friend that you need a ride when the group you were with left you at the bar (hey.. don’t say it doesn’t happen), our world is totally obsessed with fast and easy communication. We’re so obsessed in fact, that we often complain about it when it doesn’t work right, and feel a little different when we can’t do it. Don’t lie… you probably feel a little empty inside without your phone on you, just as I do.

Cameras have been around for nearly 200 years. The first photograph was taken in 1817 by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who used his own model of a makeshift camera. The photo however wasn’t permanent, and faded away. Today’s cameras obviously do not have such issues. In fact, cameras today are able to capture stunning realism and color to be shared for many years to come. They are just as good at preserving memories as they are at creating them, which is where video chat and sharing comes in.

It’s not really new to us, but video chat between two people is still a pretty young form of communication, coming into this world only 10 years ago. The first webcam (that is, camera that broadcasted live on the web) was in 1991, pointing at a coffee shop at Cambridge University to monitor the place. Even though it was shut off in August of 2001, the concept has changed everything about security, and had inspired the first ever commercial webcam by Connectix, dubbed “QuickCam” which pushed out a black and white video feed, and debuted at a whopping $100. In 1996, a color version came out for $200. All together, Connectix sold over 500,000 QuickCam units between 1994 to 1997.

Now, in this high-tech modern age, webcams are found on nearly every single new computer on the shelf. Many desktop computers come with webcam’s built into their monitors, such as all standard and advanced iMac and Macbook models by Apple since 2006, as well as many mid to high-end PC laptops sold within the last few years will likely have one as well. Webcams have become a standard feature for modern computers in our lifestyle, and they have allowed forms of communication that never could have been possible, such as sign language, to take place from miles and miles away.

It’s changed more than how we communicate though. It’s revolutionized the entire experience as well. A person that’s over a thousand miles away can feel a smile. A CEO can give an entire presentation to 15 regional branches simultaneously from one central location. A father can physically witness his daughter’s first steps with his own eyes while fighting for his country in Iraq, and his wife can physically see the tears of joy run down his face as she calls out “I love you.”

See… touched you a little bit there didn’t I?

This global connection of computers networks has recently been enhanced even further now, allowing Group conferencing to occur from several different positions around the globe. Software Developers can grab a camera and microphone and discuss their next move when developing a new game, or discuss how their going to patch a critical security hole. They can even, as many members of our Facebook page have been hearing about all the time, work together to develop a way to free the iPhone from its digital chains, and jailbreak it. They don’t all live together. They’re actually living in separate countries. Today’s communication tools make it all possible.

Some people have found a way to make a lot of money from webcam communication as well. YouTube has been a huge phenomenon, and its primary content distributors (aka.. you) use webcams all the time to make their videos and share with the world. The top shows (judging by number of subscribers) actually use webcams as their primary, and sometimes ONLY camera. Among the most popular/elite of the YouTube world is my person favorite (when it comes to a steady weekly show), and that’s Philip DeFranco, who hosts the most subscribed to channel on YouTube (currently 1,691,596 subscribers and counting) and the most views on YouTube (currently 617,806,122 and climbing).

His show is made pretty much entirely using his webcam (and Final Cut Pro to chop shots together, making his speech faster, and the video shorter). Phil, username “sxephil“, has looked a lot at what makes people watch videos, and he often gives a creative touch to the title of his videos, never mentioning that it’s his show until they click play. Titles such as “Happy Bikini Day” and “Kim Kardashian is NOT GUILTY of Intellegence” or, my personal favorite: “Anne Hathaway Blinds Stuntman with a Gun.” Not sure why that’s my favorite, but these titles really interest people, and nearly force a click out of them. He’s based his lifestyle on this practice, and his webcam allows him to have a steady lifestyle, with the large majority of his income coming from YouTube.

It’s not being deceptive… it’s being smart. Grocery stores, merchandisers, and even your local coffee shop do similar, yet more discrete things to lure you every day. You don’t really notice it… cause their good at it.

Aside from making money and broadcasting videos, Webcams, most importantly, allow people to connect at levels we never thought possible. Facebook, the most popular social networking site on the planet with nearly 800 million members, has recently added video chat to its list of features, allowing their users to have a one-on-one conversations with their webcams through Facebook (partnering with Skype). The “awesome” announcement came pretty quickly after Google launched its new social network, Google+ (said: Google Plus). Google Plus has a nice, a very smooth, video chat interface they call “Hang Outs” where up to TEN PEOPLE can chat at one time. Google Plus is showing great signs of a great future, and the demand is really high. People have been struggling to get invites into the network, and a large part of the drive to get involved is from that Hang Out feature. Without it, Google really doesn’t have all that much difference to offer from Facebook (other than the fact that it’s not Facebook, which for some people is a good thing).

FaceTime on iPhone 4 lets two people see one another on the go!

Webcams aren’t just found on computers today though. Although this is where they are primary used, webcams have made their way to mobile phones as well. Many Android devices, such as the HTC Incredible S, and the HTC EVO, and of course Apple’s iPhone 4 now come with cameras on the front of them, which makes these devices fully capable of being used as mobile webcams. As many of you know, Apple’s FaceTime feature has been widely accepted by millions of people, and is used constantly to communicate with others while they aren’t at home. Apple’s iPod Touches, and now the iPad 2 as well, also feature this camera, further expanding the number of people who can visually chat while on the move.

The real question I’m asking myself, is where do we go from here? What is the future of webcam’s going to be like? How long will it take until something replaces them, offering some undiscovered technology to communicate across the web? Will we even need a camera?….. Will we even need the web? Technology is a ridiculously fast-moving machine, and there really is no way to predict what will happen. There are rumors all over the place about big tech companies developing some really cool products in the near future… I hope for our sake, half of them aren’t total BS.

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