Science fiction has been peppered with this concept since before the television was even a widely, publicly accepted household technology. Video chat was featured in classics including H.G. Wells’ novels, and early cinematic classics like Metropolis and Just Imagine.
While the technology was experimented with as early as the late 1940s, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that such technology was practical, affordable, and in fact, easy to use. While online chat telephone companies offered video conferencing and other forms of video chat technologies to businesses as early as the late 1970s, it was rife with problems, such as video and sound quality being poor and limited, the lines dropping, and the camera equipment being unacceptably obtrusive.
Like most technologies that become part of daily life, it sprung from something becoming practical to produce, and ultimately, affordable as well. Where once cameras that recorded video, of any sort, were inordinately expensive, now everything, from phones, computers and game consoles to HD front ends and televisions have small pinhole cameras more powerful and high quality than what movie studios had a decade previously.
Thanks to this, modern technology advocates can enjoy a wide array of video chatting tools. Instant messengers such as AIM, ICQ and MSN have offered video features for their chat room functions for a long time, and dedicated live video and audio chatting applications like Skype have been popular since around 2003 as well.
In recent years, now that the web experience itself has gotten more sophisticated thanks to things like AJAX, Flash and HTML 5, free video chat websites are immensely popular, and serve a wide variety of niches such as the random webcam chat system known as Chat Roulette, which allows users to randomly connect to millions of strangers on the same server and either see something regrettable, or make a new friend, either is entirely possible.
However, the web front end feature of programs like Chat Roulette is now being adapted to serve live video chat in more useful, or practical ways. Many websites have become increasingly popular means of free video chat, allowing users who either can’t use programs like Skype, or just only need to operate such features on rare occasions to easily do so without installing heavy applications and the frameworks to support them.
Another handy feature of these web-based free video chat services is that more devices can support them as there remain a handful of platforms, consoles and mobile devices that don’t support the heavier application-based video chatting tools, which means that with this feature, more users can connect across a wider array of platforms.