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When Jennifer Ringley picked up a webcam at her college book store in 1996, she had no way of knowing she'd serve as the catalyst for an industry that's been estimated to pull in more than

When Jennifer Ringley picked up a webcam at her college book store in 1996, she had no way of knowing she'd serve as the catalyst for an industry that's been estimated to pull in more than $1 billion in revenue annually.

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When Jennifer Ringley picked up a webcam at her college book store in 1996, she had no way of knowing she'd serve as the catalyst for an industry that's been estimated to pull in more than $1 billion in revenue annually.

Just two years earlier, Connectix, a small peripheral maker released the Quick Cam, a digital camera that sat on top of your Apple's Macintosh and delivered 320-x-240 black-and-white images at 15 frames per second for $100.

billion in revenue annually.

Just two years earlier, Connectix, a small peripheral maker released the Quick Cam, a digital camera that sat on top of your Apple's Macintosh and delivered 320-x-240 black-and-white images at 15 frames per second for 0.

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In a rare 2015 interview, Ringley told Gimlet Media's podcast that she found herself at a loss for what to do with her impulse purchase and decided to put her amateur programming skills to the test.

She rigged her webcam to constantly record candid stills from inside her dorm room and upload a new image every 15 minutes to her site,

Harli Lotts (not her real name) knows her audience better than just about anyone I've ever met in online media.

In just two years, the bubbly blonde from El Paso, Texas, has gone from manager of a rent-to-own store to rising internet starlet by making personal connections with a loyal online audience.

Lotts is a social media star in the truest sense of the word.

She is one of a growing number of independent, live streaming video personalities who can make thousands of dollars in just a few hours broadcasting mostly unremarkable acts for a captive internet audience. Lotts is a cam girl, part of a booming at-home workforce made up of young women -- and a few men -- who are upending the adult entertainment industry and social media at the same time.

She appeared in profiles for major media organizations and eventually made a much-cited appearance on David Letterman's show.

But for all of the mainstream hype, Jennicam's appeal was decidedly NSFW.

Once you've filled out a web form, verified your age and agreed to the service's terms and conditions, you can immediately start streaming to a limitless audience of viewers seeking human connection and, of course, sexual release.

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