For those of us old enough to have been dabbling in webcam broadcasting in the pioneering days, names like Netmeeting and ICUII will be familiar. Those sites were about finding someone you wanted to go cam-to-cam with, jerking off together and hanging up. For some people it went further — actual relationships were formed. People met husbands and wives; some conducted business by webcam, like tarot card reading and counselling. But for the most part, it was about getting off and hanging up.

For those who didn't want to appear on cam, it was hard to find exhibitionists willing to reveal themselves without knowing who they were showing themselves to. Different technologies have evolved and adapted over the years, and of course opportunities have increased for the voyeurs to meet pure exhibitionists.

But megasite Cam4 has taken things to the next level. Imagine a site where you can see literally hundreds of guys, hundreds of girls, couples or shemales, broadcasting from their homes. For free. With no attempt to sell you into private shows, no hidden scams, and you don't even have to sign up for a membership. These people range from whitebread hotness to fascinatingly white trash.

You can grab a peek at culturally revealing foreigners in obscure nations and surreal folks engaging in displays of freakishness. That's what Cam4 is all about.

It took me a while to figure out the formula. I went to the site, clicked "male" and stumbled upon this gorgeous guy named Engine2828 from Italy, who was posing naked on his bed. He had his hairy legs crossed in such a way that you couldn't see his cock. He had more than 1,000 viewers and the text in the chatroom was flying by: "Open your legs," "Let me see that hole," and "Oh, you are another arrogant straight guy."

He was not communicating back at all; he just slowly posed and smiled and occasionally showed his ass. After 10 minutes of playing coy, he would show his cock for a few minutes. Then take it away. Very erotic and slow and seductive. Great tease.

I tried to work out why he was doing this, when there was no option to take him private and pay him. Then I figured it out — the Cam4 system rewards the best cam of the month with a $1,000 cash prize, and it goes to the person with the most simultaneous viewers. So dudes like this guy give it all away for free, hoping they might win the prize.

And it obviously appeals to genuine exhibitionists, not just web hustlers. Because while $1,000 is a lot of money, in the scheme of things, these models have to put in a lot of hours to win. It's hard to imagine a straight guy who likes showing off for hundreds of viewers (many of whom are gay men) without getting paid. In the end it doesn't matter. Cam4 is a fascinating site — and unfortunately, I'm now hooked on it.

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