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A webcast playing in an embedded media player Sample Webcast Screenshot.png
A webcast playing in an embedded media player

A webcast is a media presentation distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is "broadcasting" over the Internet.


The largest "webcasters" include existing radio and TV stations, who "simulcast" their output through online TV or online radio streaming, as well as a multitude of Internet only "stations". Webcasting usually consists of providing non-interactive linear streams or events. Rights and licensing bodies offer specific "webcasting licenses" to those wishing to carry out Internet broadcasting using copyrighted material.


Webcasting is used extensively in the commercial sector for investor relations presentations (such as annual general meetings), in e-learning (to transmit seminars), and for related communications activities. However, webcasting does not bear much, if any, relationship to web conferencing, which is designed for many-to-many interaction. [1]

The ability to webcast using cheap/accessible technology has allowed independent media to flourish. There are many notable independent shows that broadcast regularly online. Often produced by average citizens in their homes they cover many interests and topics. Webcasts relating to computers, technology, and news are particularly popular and many new shows are added regularly.

Webcasting differs from podcasting in that webcasting refers to live streaming while podcasting simply refers to media files placed on the Internet. [2]


The earliest graphically-oriented web broadcasts were not streaming video, but were in fact still frames which were photographed with a web camera every few minutes while they were being broadcast live over the Internet. One of the earliest instances of sequential live image broadcasting was in 1991 when a camera was set up next to the Trojan Room in the computer laboratory of the University of Cambridge. It provided a live picture every few minutes of the office coffee pot to all desktop computers on that office's network. [3] A couple of years later its broadcasts went to the Internet, became known as the Trojan Room Coffee Pot webcam, and gained international notoriety as a feature of the fledgling World Wide Web. [4]

Later in 1996 an American college student and conceptual artist, Jenny Ringley, set up a web camera similar to the Trojan Room Coffee Pot's webcam in her dorm room. [5] That webcam photographed her every few minutes while it broadcast those images live over the Internet upon a site called JenniCam. Ringley wanted to portray all aspects of her lifestyle and the camera captured her doing almost everything – brushing her teeth, doing her laundry, and even having sex with her boyfriend. [6] [7] Her website generated millions of hits upon the Internet, became a pay site in 1998, and spawned hundreds of female imitators who would then use streaming video to create a new billion dollar industry called camming, and brand themselves as camgirls or webcam models. [8]

One of the earliest webcast equivalent of an online concert and one of the earliest examples of webcasting itself was by Apple Computer's Webcasting Group in partnership with the entrepreneurs Michael Dorf and Andrew Rasiej. Together with David B. Pakman from Apple, they launched the Macintosh New York Music Festival from July 17–22, 1995. This event audio webcast concerts from more than 15 clubs in New York City. Apple later webcast a concert by Metallica on June 10, 1996 live from Slim's in San Francisco. [9]

In 1995, Benford E. Standley produced one of the first audio/video webcasts in history. [10]

On October 31, 1996, UK rock band Caduseus broadcast their one-hour concert from 11 pm to 12 midnight (UT) at Celtica in Machynlleth, Wales, UK – the first live streamed audio and simultaneous live streamed video multicast – around the globe to more than twenty direct "mirrors" in more than twenty countries. [11] [12]

In September 1997, Nebraska Public Television started webcasting Big Red Wrap Up from Lincoln, Nebraska which combined highlights from every Cornhusker football game, coverage of the coaches' weekly press conferences, analysis with Nebraska sportswriters, appearances by special guests and questions and answers with viewers. [13]

On August 13, 1998, it is generally believed the first webcast wedding took place, between Alan K'necht and Carrie Silverman in Toronto Canada. [14] [15]

On October 22, 1998, the first Billy Graham Crusade was broadcast live to a worldwide audience from the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida courtesy of Dale Ficken and the WebcastCenter in Pennsylvania. The live signal was broadcast via satellite to PA, then encoded and streamed via the BGEA website. [16]

The first teleconferenced/webcast wedding to date is believed to have occurred on December 31, 1998. Dale Ficken and Lorrie Scarangella wed on this date as they stood in a church in Pennsylvania, and were married by Jerry Falwell while he sat in his office in Lynchburg, Virginia. [17]

Virtually all major broadcasters now have a webcast of their output, from the BBC to CNN to Al Jazeera to UNTV in television to Radio China, Vatican Radio, [18] United Nations Radio and the World Service in radio.

On November 4, 1994, Stef van der Ziel distributed the first live video images over the web from the Simplon venue in Groningen. [19] On November 7, 1994, WXYC, the college radio station of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became the first radio station in the world to broadcast its signal over the internet. [20] [21]

Translated versions including Subtitling are now possible using SMIL Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.


A webcast of a wedding may be called a wedcast; [22] [23] it allows family and friends of the couple to watch the wedding in real time on the Internet. It is sometimes used for weddings in exotic locations, where it would be expensive or difficult for people to travel to see the wedding in person. [22]

Webcasting a funeral is also a service provided by some funeral homes. [24] Although it has been around since at least 2005, cheaper broadband access, the financial strain of travel, and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have all led to increased use of the technology. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Streaming media Continuous multimedia operated & presented to users by a provider other than conventional broadcast media channels

Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end user while being delivered by a provider over the Internet. The verb to stream refers to the process of delivering or obtaining media in a continuous manner from a particular source. Streaming refers to the delivery method of the medium, rather than the medium itself. Distinguishing delivery method from the media distributed applies specifically to telecommunications networks, as most of the traditional media delivery systems are either inherently streaming or inherently non-streaming. There are challenges with streaming content on the Internet. For example, users whose Internet connection lacks sufficient bandwidth may experience stops, lags, or slow buffering of the content. And users lacking compatible hardware or software systems may be unable to stream certain content. With the use of buffering content just a few seconds in advance, the quality can get much better.

Webcam Video camera connected to a computer or network

A webcam is a video camera that feeds or streams an image or video in real time to or through a computer to a computer network, such as the Internet. Webcams are typically small cameras that sit on a desk, attach to a user's monitor, or are built into the hardware. Webcams can be used during a video chat session involving two or more people, with conversations that include live audio and video. For example, Apple's iSight camera, which is built into Apple laptops, iMacs and a number of iPhones, can be used for video chat sessions, using the Messages instant messaging program. Webcam software enables users to record a video or stream the video on the Internet. As video streaming over the Internet requires much bandwidth, such streams usually use compressed formats. The maximum resolution of a webcam is also lower than most handheld video cameras, as higher resolutions would be reduced during transmission. The lower resolution enables webcams to be relatively inexpensive compared to most video cameras, but the effect is adequate for video chat sessions.

Trojan Room coffee pot predecessor of the webcam

The Trojan Room coffee pot was a coffee machine located next to the so-called Trojan Room in the old Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, England, which in 1991 provided the inspiration for the world's first webcam.

CBC Radio 3 Canadian digital radio station

CBC Radio 3 is a Canadian digital radio station on Sirius XM operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which plays a relatively freeform mix of indie rock, indie pop, alternative hip hop, folk, country and electronic music.

<i>All Songs Considered</i>

All Songs Considered is a weekly online multimedia program started in January 2000 by NPR's All Things Considered director Bob Boilen. At first, the show featured information and streaming audio about the songs used as bumper music on All Things Considered. The program has turned into a source of discovery for new music of all genres. In August 2005, the program began podcasting for free. In 2005, it began webcasting and podcasting live concerts from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, including acts such as Animal Collective, The Decemberists, Neko Case, and Tom Waits.

Video production is the process of producing video content for TV, home video or the internet. It is the equivalent of filmmaking, but with video recorded either as analog signals on videotape, digitally in video tape or as computer files stored on optical discs, hard drives, SSDs, magnetic tape or memory cards instead of on film stock. There are three stages of video production: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production involves all of the planning aspects of the video production process before filming begins. This includes scriptwriting, scheduling, logistics, and other administrative duties. Production is the phase of video production which captures the video content and involves filming the subject(s) of the video. Post-production is the action of selectively combining those video clips through video editing into a finished product that tells a story or communicates a message in either a live event setting, or after an event has occurred (post-production).

Web conferencing Forms of online many-to-many communication

Web conferencing is used as an umbrella term for various types of online conferencing and collaborative services including webinars, webcasts, and web meetings. Sometimes it may be used also in the more narrow sense of the peer-level web meeting context, in an attempt to disambiguate it from the other types known as collaborative sessions. The terminology related to these technologies is exact and agreed relying on the standards for web conferencing but specific organizations practices in usage exist to provide also term usage reference.

Quentin Stafford-Fraser Computer programmer

James Quentin Stafford-Fraser is a computer scientist and entrepreneur based in Cambridge, England. He was one of the team that created the first webcam: the Trojan room coffee pot: Quentin pointed a camera at the coffee pot and wrote the XCoffee client program which allowed the image of the pot to be displayed on a workstation screen. When web browsers gained the ability to display images, the system was modified to make the coffee pot images available over HTTP and thus became the first webcam.

CU-SeeMe is an Internet videoconferencing client. CU-SeeMe can make point to point video calls without a server or make multi-point calls through server software first called a "reflector" and later called a "conference server" or Multipoint Control Unit (MCU). Later commercial versions of CU-SeeMe could also make point-to-point or multi-point calls to other vendor's standards-based H.323 endpoints and servers.

A softcam is essentially a software-based camera.

Stickam Live-streaming video website

Stickam was a live-streaming video website that launched in 2005. Stickam featured user-submitted pictures, audio, video, and most prominently, live streaming video chat. The site quickly expanded to include live shows and produced content from MTV, G4 TV, CBS Radio, NATPE, CES, and many others, as well as live performances and shows with numerous musicians and celebrities.

BlogTalkRadio is a web-based platform that allows podcasters and radio sites and talk show hosts to create live and on-demand talk format content for distribution on the web and podcast distribution channels. Its claim to fame is a web-based 'studio' that allows its content creators to host multi-participant broadcasts using a computer and a phone.

Webcam model video performer who is streamed upon the Internet with a live webcam broadcast

A webcam model is a video performer who is streamed on the Internet with a live webcam broadcast. A webcam model often performs erotic acts online, such as stripping, masturbation, or sex acts in exchange for money, goods, or attention. They may also sell videos of their performances.

Lifestreaming Act of documenting and sharing aspects of ones daily social experiences online

Lifestreaming is an act of documenting and sharing aspects of one's daily social experiences online, via a lifestream website that collects the things person chooses to publish and presents them in reverse-chronological order.

Lifelog Personal record of one’s daily life

A lifelog is a personal record of one’s daily life in a varying amount of detail, for a variety of purposes. The record contains a comprehensive dataset of a human's activities. The data could be used to increase knowledge about how people live their lives. In recent years, some lifelog data has been automatically captured by wearable technology or mobile devices. People who keep lifelogs about themselves are known as lifeloggers.

NPR Music is a project of National Public Radio, an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization, that launched in November 2007 to present public radio music programming and original editorial content for music discovery. NPR Music offers current and archival podcasts, live concert webcasts, reviews, music lists, news, studio sessions, and interviews to listen to from NPR and partner public radio stations across the country, as well as an index of public radio music stations streaming live on the Internet. There have been two blogs: "Monitor Mix" by Sleater-Kinney musician Carrie Brownstein and the All Songs Considered Blog by Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton.

Jennifer Kaye Ringley is an Internet personality and former lifecaster. She is known for creating the popular website JenniCam. Previously, live webcams transmitted static shots from cameras aimed through windows or at coffee pots. Ringley's innovation was simply to allow others to view her daily activities. She was the first web-based "lifecaster". She retired from lifecasting at the end of 2003.

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"Drew Cam" is the ninth episode of the fifth season of the American sitcom The Drew Carey Show, and the 110th overall. The episode sees Drew becoming a 24-hour salesman for the Winfred-Louder department store. Webcams are installed in his house and he has to promote the store's range of appliances. While Drew is out, the webcams continue to stream events that occur in his house. When the viewers become bored of Drew's life, Kate O'Brien is hired to play his girlfriend for the show. She is soon replaced by Isabel, who Kate becomes jealous of. She eventually tells Drew that she loves him during the webcast.


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