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Internet camera technology allows almost anyone with a computer to broadcast real-time images on their Web site. Those cameras, called webcams, show online audiences anything from pornography to local traffic conditions.

There are also thousands of men and women who use webcams as extensions of their personal Web sites. If you click on these pages, you see everything that person does, usually all day and all night, 365 days a year.

Ringley's activities are silent. You can't hear a single word or sound. She says this helps them maintain a sense of privacy.
IT'S ESTIMATED there are 67 million Internet users in the United States. Millions of people have set up personal homepages that describe the sometimes-fascinating, but mostly banal, details of their daily lives. And about 5,000 of those sites worldwide have webcams attached, sparking a whole new definition of privacy and Internet communication.

Click on and meet Jenni Ringley. She's the mother of invention for the Webcam phenomenon.

Ringley: The idea behind the site is that I am just a regular person. I'm living a pretty normal life. I don't sing or dance or do tricks or anything. I'm just Jenni.

Three-and-a-half years ago, Ringley bought a little Internet camera and trained the lens on herself, broadcasting her daily life from her dorm room in Pennsylvania. She calls it JenniCam.

Ringley: I guess I knew early on it would be popular just based on the way people were talking about it. But I never imagined it would be anything of this scale. In fact, if I had known it would be this popular, I probably would've just screamed and thrown it away.

What started as a way to entertain her friends has turned into a thriving Internet business. Ringley started charging a subscription fee of $15 a year, and is now Ringley's single source of income. Though she refuses to say how many people subscribe to JenniCam, Ringley estimates she gets between 4.5 and 5.5 million hits a day. Of course, only a small percentage of those visitors are subscribers.

Ringley says her site is so popular because it's real.

Ringley: It's undramatized. I'm not acting, I'm not making stuff up, I'm not hiding anything. It's really like people watching to the nth degree. If you watch people walk by in a park, you're not likely to see them do much other than walking or reading or eating something.

If you go to you'll see Jenni eat or walk or read. Or watch TV or sleep, or take a shower. That's right, a shower. Ringley even works fulltime on surrounded by ten cameras. The only place she doesn't have a camera is the guest bathroom.

So on any given day, you'll see Jenni doing stuff that looks a lot like what everybody else does. The big difference is she lives her life under millions of watchful eyes.

But it's that very thing, realism and the illusion of spying on someone's private life with permission, that seems to be the big draw for Ringley's audience of voyeurs.

Ringley's site has inspired thousands, mostly women, to jump on the Web with their own daily life Webcams. One local "cam girl" is Twin Cities artist and singer Ana Voog.

For two years now, Voog has been making a living off her 24-by-7 presence on (Warning: This site is 18 and over only).

Voog: It seems like I've been doing it all my life. Its almost like a part of me. It's so ingrained in my every pore that I don't even know how I existed without it.

Voog regularly broadcasts art performances from her small apartment. Most of the time, though, visitors to are likely to see her sitting, reading, watching TV. You know, life.

Voog also has subscribers. For $10 a month, visitors to watch Ana go about her day, they can post artwork about Ana, or talk about Ana in a chat room. Voog also refuses to say how many subscribers she has. She says she's often criticized for making money off her site. But subscriber Dick Wales thinks it's just fine for Ana to make money.

Wales: I find it interesting to watch an attractive young woman going about her business.

"Moby Dick," that's Wales' online name, subscribes to both JenniCam and AnaCam. He says since Voog and Ringley invite millions of people to come and watch, there's no reason he shouldn't. And, Wales says the attraction is more than just titillation. It's real. And it's much more entertaining than watching TV. It's about being able to share in an unedited life.

Wales: I watch Ally McBeal and I watch for an hour and she's in her office and something's not going well and I get a little choked up about it. But then I think, there is no Ally McBeal. She's fiction and she could get cancelled. But Ana and Jenni, they're real people and that's a whole different thing.

So television is fiction and Webcams are real? Well, kind of. The paradox in all this fishbowl privacy is that Voog says isn't really about her at all.

Voog: I don't feel like it's my life, you know what I mean? Like other people for some reason that when you take a photo, it's taking away from my life. It's just a photo of my life. I'm in control of my cameras. It's not Ed TV, it's not the Truman Show, it's not Big Brother. It's like me taking control of my cameras and pointing them at what I want to point at.

Both Voog and Ringley say they're selling authenticity with unedited abandon, yet they admit that realism is constructed on some level, mainly by what they leave out. As with most daily-life cams, Voog's and Ringley's activities are silent. You can't hear a single word or sound. They say this helps them maintain a sense of privacy. Still, they say they have personal, intimate relationships with their audience.

Block: That's the irony of cyber space.

Doug Block is a documentary filmmaker whose film "HomePage," a story about people who post their diaries online, just premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year.

Block thinks baring personal information online is all about the search for connection. He says Voog and Ringley are not only capitalizing on a kind of "natural" voyeuristic tendency, they are also creating a new form of human relationship.

Block: I think we're going to become a nation of JenniCams. The ability to have inexpensive computers and sending stream video in a few years. But that's not going to change what we're looking for online. I don't think it changes what people like Jenni and Ana are looking for online. It all comes back to the need for attention, approval, love.

And sex. Webcam technology has become more sophisticated thanks to the porn industry. The majority of online Webcams are pornography sites. Jenni Ringley and Ana Voog have both been accused of enticing visitors to their sites with nudity.

While it's true that nude images of Jenni and Ana exist on both sites, they justify the nudity as just another part of real life. Voog calls her site a kind of Rorschach test. Visitors project their own desires onto what they see.

Voog: You'll see my dogs more than you'll see me nude. I'll walk around the house nude if it's hot out or I took a shower, but they will assume I'm making money 'cause it's my body. Well that's what they think. Obviously they're looking at my cam to look at my body cause they think that's what my cam is about, and it's not about that.

What it is about is Ana and her life. All of her life -- well almost. Ironically, it is the absence of sound that has been the one thing protecting her privacy while she's online 24 hours a day.

Webcams may well be the centerpiece of a nascent Internet art form, with similarities to early filmmaking. But just as silent film was superceded by sound film, it seems likely both Ringley and Voog's Webcams won't be silent for long. Both women are working on projects to add audio to their Web broadcasts.

And so the line between privacy and exhibitionism will continually be drawn and redrawn as technology brings more and more realism to the World Wide Web.