A webcam is a video camera that feeds or streams its image in real time to or through a computer to a computer network.

When sent to a remote location, the video stream may be saved, viewed or on sent there.

Unlike an IP camera (which connects using Ethernet or Wi-Fi), a webcam is generally connected by a USB cable, or similar cable, or built into computer hardware, such as laptops.

For a more complete list see Comparison of webcam software.

Special software can use the video stream from a webcam to assist or enhance a user's control of applications and games.

Unauthorized access of webcams can present significant privacy issues (see "Privacy" section below).

In December 2011, Russia announced that 290,000 Webcams would be installed in 90,000 polling stations to monitor the Russian presidential election, 2012.

Researchers claim that this method is accurate to ±5 bpm.

Webcams may be installed at places such as childcare centres, offices, shops and private areas to monitor security and general activity.

Webcam features and performance can vary by program, computer operating system, and also by the computer's processor capabilities.

Video calling support has also been added to several popular instant messaging programs. Software is available to allow PC-connected cameras to watch for movement and sound, a computer e-mailed images of the burglar during the theft of the computer, enabling the owner to give police a clear picture of the burglar's face even after the computer had been stolen.

Webcams can be used to take video clips and still pictures.