Even before the Covid-19 pandemic forced more adult content creators to work from home, adult camming – most often earning money by streaming yourself performing a sexual or arousing act – comprised a large part of the global porn industry.

Note: Many of the links in this article are very NSFW and lead to explicit content. Open them somewhere private, and definitely not at work.

It was estimated that the sex cam industry generated $2 billion in 2018. That figure is likely to have risen since, largely thanks to the popularity of female cammers on sites such as Chaturbate, CamSoda and Bongacams.

While women dominate, there’s an increasing amount of gay male content. Trans performers are gaining more visibility too, with dedicated sites such as Tgirlscams.com [very NSFW] launching, and more mainstream cam sites promoting transgender categories within their sites.

Tgirlscams screenshot
Tgirlscams.com in 2021

With fast internet access and broadband-level streaming speeds available around much of the world, and with sites like these making it easy for many to set themselves up as cammers, this particular part of the industry is thriving. This is despite challenges such as credit card companies refusing to work directly with them, prompting some camming sites to launch their own cryptocurrencies for payment.

This particular sector of the broader adult entertainment industry has certainly come a long way from the days of glitchy 1990s webcam performances. Here’s how sex camming has unfolded to where we are today.

From Coffee to JenniCam: The Original Cam Girl

The origins of the camming industry can be traced to a live broadcast of a coffee pot in the UK.

In 1991 scientists at the University of Cambridge rigged up a camera directed at their main computer lab’s coffee pot, updating the image three times per minute, so researchers could check the availability of their hot drink. The images were made available on their internal network, then in 1993 shown on the wider internet, where the feed gained a cult following. The scientists were credited with creating the world’s first webcam.

The original webcam stream — showing a coffee pot. Image still taken from the BBC’s original reporting in the 90s.

Presumably unaware that their simple code and contraption would help lay the path for people all over the world to make careers from filming themselves naked, the Cambridge scientists had sowed the seed of camming. In 1994, the first widely-marketed commercial webcam, the Connectix QuickCam, was released, marking a big step towards home-streaming becoming mainstream.

The 1994 Connectix QuickCam, image via Preterhuman Wiki

In 1996, a camming pioneer began broadcasting herself live. Jennifer Ringley, from Pennsylvania, launched the JenniCam website, allowing people from around the world to monitor her home life via a new image from her camera refreshed every 15 minutes. She showed herself in the nude, masturbating and having sex (as well as going about daily life), and was thought of as a conceptual artist, or ‘lifecaster’, rather than a porn performer by many advocates.

After starting the site in her college dorm room Ringley saw it soar in popularity, gaining millions of hits. She began charging for access and gained a degree of fame, appearing on the Late Show With David Letterman in 1998. She closed JenniCam in 2003, mentioning PayPal’s anti-nudity policy as part of the reason for the closure — a difficulty echoed years later in modern cam sites’ challenges with credit cards and banks. While the domain has since been turned into a mainstream cam site, the original JenniCam site is still partially navigable via the Wayback Machine.

Likely inspired by JenniCam, in 1998 a site called AmandaCam was launched, with a similar concept. Cameras positioned around the house a woman named Amanda lived in broadcast her comings and goings.

Amanda was among the first to realize the importance of chat to the camming industry. She found that when she exchanged messages with members on her site, its popularity increased. This realization would form the crux of adult camming sites to come.

iFriends Like These

Around the time JenniCam took off, rudimentary camming sites were beginning to appear. Users with webcams (often a Connectix QuickCam) could use videoconferencing software and pay to link with cammer chat ‘hosts’ using the same web tools.

This was facilitated by iFriends.net, an early ‘sharing economy’ internet platform used by early cammers. Groups of users could pay to log on and connect with a cammer ‘host’ and give them requests.

For many, the appeal of the connections was a more ‘real’ experience than you get watching a slick porn film production. A former cammer wrote, “For a long time, iFriends was the only game in town – and when they first started, the guys were thrilled to be able to see and talk to someone who may actually be ‘next door’.”

The experience was infinitely more intimate than the expensive sex chat phone lines that were popular in the 1990s, but was missing the live visual component. The site was eventually closed down, though many others have tried to take up the iFriends brand on different domains since.

Also just past the mid-‘90s, early camming websites such as Flirt4free and Cams.com were founded, followed by the likes Camwhores and Peekshows.com. With home internet speeds often unable to stream live video at a reasonable quality, their appeal was initially niche. Women (and it was almost exclusively women back then) broadcast themselves naked and performing sex acts, often with glitchy streams that were as likely to leave viewers as frustrated as they were titillated.

Nonetheless, these launches marked the first generation of dedicated porn camming sites and paved the way for those that followed.

An Evolving Payment Model — Token Inclusion

In the early 2000s home internet speeds were picking up, and a camming site that would prove to be an influential link to modern camming came online. LiveJasmin went live in 2001, launched by Hungarian businessman György Gattyán, initially as a porn studio aimed at users in his home country.

In 2003, LiveJasmin was furnished with a ‘.com’ address and promoted as a global site, touting itself as the first site to offer unregistered users access to some cammers’ live streams. As proved the case for AmandaCam in the previous decade, the chat facility proved essential in attracting users, enticed by the prospect of directly interacting with the plethora of models available to send messages to.

LiveJasmin’s 2003 homepage warning

This was still the era of video porn largely being consumed via physical video formats such as DVD. But improving internet speeds helped prompt cam sites such as Imlive and MyFreeCams – known as one of the highest-paying cammer sites – to launch.

The camming model became increasingly appealing to many in the industry. You can’t pirate the full experience of a live-streamed cam performance, while rampant pirating and copyright eroded profits from DVD, video and traditional porn sites.

With cammers working from home, in a controlled environment, many also saw the industry sector as safer than more traditional porn films and photoshoots, which have sometimes been linked to sex trafficking.

The cammer sites that emerged in the 2000s typically made money through a subscription model, by users paying to be in private sessions with cammers, or by users buying online ‘tokens’ with real money which could then be used to ‘tip’ performers. The most popular cammers could earn thousands of dollars a month, even when their host site was taking high percentage commission fees.

Cream of the Current Crop

In 2007, Cam4, one of the sites using the ‘virtual token’ payment model, launched. Difficulties with finance companies, often concerned about being associated with vice, would later emerge more prominently as a recurring theme in the industry. Many sites have been forced to make users buy some kind of virtual currency, to get around not being able to accept direct payments from major credit cards.

On the other side of 2010, a slew of launches that would really push the camming industry forward arrived.

Chaturbate, CamSoda and Bongacams — three of the biggest cam sites today — were launched in 2011, 2012 and 2014 respectively. They competed with the longer-running LiveJasmin, which nudged closer to the mainstream in 2012 by recruiting Flo Rida for marketing muscle. The US rapper released a song called ‘Hey Jasmin’, which featured him namechecking the URL address in the lyrics, plus watching the site on his phone in the music video.

A still from the Flo Rida music video Hey Jasmin, produced in collaboration with Livejasmin.com

Billed with the tagline “The act of masturbating while chatting online”, Chaturbate has been influential in cammers’ embracing of other tech products and services. Many Chaturbate cammers use remote-controlled Lovesense sex toys while live-streaming, allowing them to give viewers permission to control the devices, for more interactive experiences.

Available in multiple languages, and despite its highly functional but resolutely retro design, in mid-2021 Chaturbate was the biggest adult content webcam site in the world, with some performers’ rooms hosting tens of thousands of viewers at a time.

CamSoda’s homepage in 2021

BongaCams, based in the Netherlands, also allows cammers to pair with Lovesense sex toys, and has risen to become one of the most popular sex cam sites in the world. Like Chaturbate, it translates its site into multiple languages, with many users drawn by its use of HTTPS security for privacy and payment.

CamSoda, meanwhile, has carved itself a niche with quirky and plentiful marketing stunts. Many of them involve allowing users to pair remote-controlled sex toys with on-trend data, such as cryptocurrency values. It was also the first cam site to offer 360-degree virtual reality live-streams.

Around this time, virtual reality porn was taking off in the industry, with more porn video sites launching VR sections as VR headsets became more affordable. Ela Darling, an early live VR cam adopter, launched VRTube.xxx, which she managed and performed through. It has since been sold and, seemingly, abandoned.

Speaking of the logistical challenges of live VR camming, in 2015 Darling told Vice: “It’s different [to non-VR camming] because I have some things to keep in mind in terms of field of view of the camera. I have to find the monitor and make sure my body isn’t out of the field so my arms look like they’re amputated weirdly. It’s stereoscopics, so there are two cameras shooting at the same time so I can be filmed in 3D, so I have to position myself for both.”

However, these early VR forays failed to turn into anything game-changing in the sex cam industry, with the big cam companies failing to provide much live VR choice for customers, particularly in the early days. In 2021, cam sites are increasingly adding VR subsections.

The Future of Cam Sites

The big draw of camming for users is interaction: the feeling of having some kind of connection with a performer, that you can’t get from watching a standard porn film.

Technology link-ups that make camming even more interactive are expected to lead the sector’s charge into the future of the porn industry. While it might be a little while before VR makes a huge impact on camming, companies have been keen to keep integrating sex toys. For example, in 2021 Chaturbate launched a link-up with the saddle-like ride-on vibrating Motorbunny device.

Motorbunny's Ride on Device
The Motorbunny: a device being used by increasing amounts of adult cammers

Some cam sites have suggested that they see a big future in gaming/camming link-ups. In summer 2021 Chaturbate announced that the site could be paired with the 3DXChat game: basically a hardcore version of The Sims. It soon followed with the launch of Chaturbate Games, a Twitch-like game streaming function on the site taking in other games beyond 3DXChat.

Like others in the porn industry, the sex cam sector could face further challenges as banks and credit card companies toughen rules about working with sites that host sexually explicit content. Some cam sites use cryptocurrency and the aforementioned token payment systems to avoid relying directly on traditional banking and payment organizations already.

Away from the tech aspects, the pure convenience of working from home and being able to set up profiles on cam sites easily should continue to appeal to those wanting to move into porn performing.

Much in the same way that YouTubers become global stars earning millions, with no need to break into TV or film, camming provides a direct route into the industry. And one that doesn’t require you to seek out a porn film producer for an audition.

Don’t be surprised if camming becomes an increasingly dominant force in the ‘porn of the future’.

Read Next: All our Cam Coverage in One Place or How to Get Started as a Cam Performer (and Actually Make Money)

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain affiliate links that allow us to earn money to help pay for the site (at no extra cost to you) if you decide to purchase any of these products or services. It has no relation to review ratings or any other form of editorial coverage. You can read more about our affiliate policy here.