Ming the Mechanic:
Googling Webcams

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Googling Webcams2005-01-09 13:06
picture picture picture picture by Flemming Funch

BoingBoing had a couple of postings, here and here, about somebody having noticed that Google had indexed a lot of web cameras, and it is easy to list them if you know how the URLs tend to look for certain manufacturers' viewing pages.

The sort of mischievous thing about that is that many of these folks might not have intended for their webcams to be that public and easy to find. Well, obviously they can't be all that secret either. Google will only find them if they're linked from some other public page somewhere. And we're talking about cameras that are viewable for anybody who accesses that IP number in a web browser.

Anyway, I like webcams, and I was anyway thinking about making some webcam pages, so I couldn't resist going a little further on this opportunity. So, look at this page I just made. I grabbed the URLs of the first 500 or so of those pages from Google (using the SOAP interface). I figured out how to grab the currently first image from one of those streams. And then I set up a thing that scans through them every couple of hours and take a snapshot from each. And then, since we'd like to know where they are, I ran the IPs through HostIP which tells us the country and sometimes the city. So, you click on any one of them and you see the live video, at least if your browser can handle Motion JPEG. IE seems to have a problem with that.

Hopefully I won't hear from anybody's lawyer too soon. It seems harmless enough. You can see some airport lobbies, some streets and freeways, some people working in offices, some museums, some malls, some factory assembly lines, a school cafeteria, somebody's aquarium, a hangar where somebody parks their corporate jet, the snow conditions on some ski slopes. Doesn't seem to be any private bedrooms or anything like that.

What I like about webcams is not particularly the snooping, but more the telepresence. You can a little bit be somewhere else, far away, and watch a slice of life going by.

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9 Jan 2005 @ 15:25 by jstarrs : LOL!
Kind of like a random, free, police state thing!
As you say, the bedrooms are missing, however....  

9 Jan 2005 @ 15:52 by JonHusband @ : Where's My ...
security guard cap, badge and donuts ?

Very cool, and as jstarrs notes, a bit like a free-range "watching over us" feeling  

9 Jan 2005 @ 19:03 by jmarc : threw this together
on a rainy day, 2 years ago and most have the same urls. rather primitive with just an over all auto refresh, and i never got around to making thumbnails to link the bigger pics, but it works for a quick weather check. http://www.radioreview.homestead.com/files/nhwebcams.html

( the dartmouth cam is interesting in that it updates itself, being a .mwv file.  

9 Jan 2005 @ 19:52 by ming : webcams
Ah, very nice. What I had in mind before seeing that google thing was actually to collect webcams in many different areas, so you can take a quick look into what is going on there, and so I can combine it with other kinds of information for what is going on in that country or city. Like the weather. And I also just made a {link:http://www.opentopia.com/frontpages.html|thing} that picks up today's newspaper front pages in many different areas. I think it would be fun to combine a number of those sources to get a snapshot of what is happening in some location. Weblog postings from people in that area would go well together with it too.  

9 Jan 2005 @ 20:49 by jstarrs : That's quite an awesome site, Opentopia!

9 Jan 2005 @ 22:07 by ming : Opentopia
Hey, glad you like it. I haden't mentioned it before because there's a lot more I want to put there that I haven't gotten done yet. I'm realizing that there's an amazing amount of stuff out there on the net that is shared quite liberally. So, many possibilities for combining it in new ways.  

9 Jan 2005 @ 22:59 by Lionel @ : Webcams
Congratulations, Ming! Opentopia is an excellent tool...  

9 Jan 2005 @ 23:32 by Colby @ : WebCams
Flemming...took the liberty of posting your webcam page. Gave you due credit , of course, and your blog as well. Hope this is ok. I was fascinated with all the different views. Too bad the ones from my country - Netherlands - were so boring. Nice collection.  

10 Jan 2005 @ 00:11 by ming : WebCams
Oh, I just noticed one from Netherlands which is some kind of indoor skiing range, that seems fun. Perfectly fine you posted it. Although my server is running red hot right now. 2-3Mbits/s. This seems to be a popular item. If the server doesn't hold up I'll have to think of a way of making it more efficient or showing fewer pictures at a time or something.  

10 Jan 2005 @ 20:41 by Boing Boing @ : Still more Googleable webcams, and secur
[{link:http://www.boingboing.net/2005/01/10/still_more_googleabl.html|trackback}]: Following up on last week's Boing Boing posts (1, 2) about tips for finding (and watching) unsecured webcams via Google, this news story offers the security biz take on the issue. Link (Thanks, Xopl). Boing Boing reader rogueleader says, "More open net...  

10 Jan 2005 @ 21:09 by ming : Traffic
Oh-oh, BoingBoing. Anyway, I asked for it. But one tiny little comment amongst hundreds on Slashdot yesterday brought 4000 people, and beat my server to its knees. Plus hundreds from del.icio.us and some Austrian newspaper, and a few other sites. I adjusted a few things, and made it show fewer pictures at a time, and it seems to be surviving now.  

10 Jan 2005 @ 21:39 by bushman : Cool :}
I was wondering about the lag, lol. What? does the world think theres only high speed connections now? lol.  

10 Jan 2005 @ 21:52 by ming : Speed
Well, I don't want to slow everything else down, of course, so if it keeps going I'll have to find a different home for it. The server has plenty of bandwidth available, but if it is doing something database intensive involving large numbers of files at the same time, and there are several visitors per second, it is beginning to be a problem.  

11 Jan 2005 @ 02:40 by wannabe @ : Peeping Tom For Dummies
[{link:http://blog.yanime.org/index.php?op=ViewArticle&articleId=135&blogId=1|trackback}]: First there was talk about people installing webcams and not having them secured and that these cameras are actually searchable and viewable via Google. Then there's  

11 Jan 2005 @ 04:49 by Cowicide @ : WHAT IF WE WITNESS A CRIME?

11 Jan 2005 @ 14:17 by jstarrs : Just call these guys..

11 Jan 2005 @ 14:18 by ming : Crimes
See, I think it would actually be a good thing if we could all watch all those semi-public places freely, and, yes, that we'd know who to contact if a crime took place. Of course, then we'd kind of want to know what exact location we're looking at. But somebody with the right access could figure that out from the address.  

11 Jan 2005 @ 14:42 by Techory.com - Regular Ramblings About Te @ : Using Google to Find Web/Security Camera
[{link:http://techory.com/blog/index.php?p=101|trackback}]: There have been some neat Google tricks popping up lately (first seen on boingboing) to find web/security cams on the web. Some web cams that haven't been secured have a specific syntax in their URL that Google has indexed and are searchable. Here are...  

12 Jan 2005 @ 19:22 by Jon @ : Enhancement
Might I draw your attention to this url:

If you add in the IP address of the Googled cam into the Javascript code mentioned in the article, you can watch the pictures go by in all their slo-mo glory.  

12 Jan 2005 @ 21:27 by ming : SloMo
Hm, but Windows IE only. Looking at my server logs, that's a minority nowadays, at least amongst techies. Firefox is the thing.

But it would be a good thing. Those cameras are sending pictures faster than there's any good reason for.

And, oops, that page there reveals that they can handle just 20 simultaneous connections. I hope I don't break too many of them.  

16 Jan 2005 @ 12:37 by coathanger @ : Outstanding!
Great job amigo! thanks for the views and great blog.  

27 Feb 2005 @ 23:25 by Martin @ : Look at this site
about 2000 open webcams online at {link:http://www.vam.com/|www.vam.com}  

28 Feb 2005 @ 16:26 by ming : webcams
Wow, that's kind of flattering. It obviously has drawn some inspiration from my version. But that's cool, we're just presenting other people's resources, anyway. Is it your site? Anyway, it does a few things I have had in mind too, but that I didn't get around to. Like the voting, and categorizing, and cross-relating it with other country information. So, good work! Now we can have a little friendly competition of thinking up new features.  

17 Apr 2005 @ 07:15 by host @ : webcams
Very cool! Thanks for taking the time to put this together.  

23 Jul 2006 @ 23:31 by ming : Webcam
Well, that seriously sucks, sorry to hear that. And that's of course where ubiquitous surveillance cameras might actually be a nice thing, to document what actually happened when some kind of crime took place. Are you saying there actually were some surveillance cameras around that you're aware of?  

6 Dec 2006 @ 10:45 by Vidal @ : Google Unsecured Webcams
I've made sites about it
http://www.camorati.com (Webcam Weblog)
http://www.camhacker.com Google Custom Search (CSE)
Have Fun!  

12 Apr 2007 @ 12:23 by Vidal @ : Search hacker

Search Hacker does this trick too, but can be used to find variety of file formats like wav, mp3, doc, cvs, wma, mpg, xls, zip, mid, mpeg, pdf, rar, avi, mov, txt and torrents. I tried Search Hacker and it works, but some results return errors. Can’t blame Search Hacker for that, just skip and try another result. http://www.searchhacker.com

Search Hacker has a sister site called Cam Hacker which can be used for searching unprotected live webcams. Search Hacker deservers to be in your bookmarks, however, if you are a hard working sucker, then you can try searching the hard way. http://www.camhacker.com  

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9 Aug 2008 @ 15:49 by Live webcams @ : I love webcams
a great job. I also build a site to share the webcams all over the world.

22 Sep 2010 @ 13:02 by Auto Mechanic Career @ : Auto Mechanic Jobs, Diesel Automotive Me
Hey, glad i like it.I'm realizing that there's an amazing thing Auto Mechanic Career of stuff out there on the net that is shared quite liberally. So, many possibilities for combining it in new ways.  

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