Hackernoon logoPornhub and The Adult Entertainment Industry Helped Shape The Internet by@damienreed

Pornhub and The Adult Entertainment Industry Helped Shape The Internet

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@damienreedDamien Reed

Damien Reed is an SEO expert who specializes in content marketing and outreach.

Believe it or not, the world as we know it would not have been possible without the influence of porn. In fact, we have the adult industry to thank for today's most prominent technological advancements, such as streaming services and online payments. Still, while it has revolutionized our society, it has also shed light on some of its deep-rooted issues. 

Nowadays, the adult entertainment industry seems to be the go-to scapegoat whenever something’s wrong with society. People are quick to point their fingers at it for virtually everything, be it just loneliness and divorce rates or ludicrous stuff like climate change or making your brain smaller! That’s how easy it is to hate it. 

While we’re not here to say that some of the criticism shot toward porn isn’t valid (we can’t deny that dating standards have changed because of it), we also can’t ignore the fact that the porn industry has also been quick to resolve every issue it comes across.

For instance, as a result of the 2020 backlash regarding illegal content on Pornhub, the platform introduced a whole new user verification system. In doing so, they have managed to transfer legal responsibility for their users’ actions from the company back to the users themselves. By doing so, Pornhub paved the way for other platforms and even other industries to do the same. 

Ultimately, the company showed that it is possible to avoid such liability and actually hold the individuals posting illegal content accountable. The system they started using will most likely become standard for social media platforms in the following few years. 

The Adoption Of New Technologies In The Adult Industry

The porn industry is worth around $97 billion today. It has surely come a long way since 1896's Le Coucher de la Mariée. Not only are today's videos more explicit but also more versatile, longer, and of much higher quality. 

While its primary goal was always the entertainment of horny masses, the adult entertainment industry has been keeping up with technological advancements. In fact, it's been pushing technological trends forward and popularizing them. 

Apart from taking over cable television in the 70s and ending the Betamax vs. VCR war by making VCR the clear winner, here are some other ways in which porn spurred technological growth:

Shaping The Internet

Back in 2001, there were a total of 29 million websites, 70,000 of which were adult sites. Today, there are over 4 million sites in the U.S. alone. According to some sources, porn makes up as much as 30% of all Internet data transfers.

The rise of the Internet was partially due to the increased demand for porn. Consequently, it sparked the further improvement of fundamental Internet infrastructure, such as the bandwidth, routers, switches, relays, etc.  

Online Streaming

Without erotica, we probably wouldn't have had the ability to stream videos online as early as we did. As a matter of fact, a porn company from the Netherlands, Red Light District, provided the first-ever Internet video streaming service back in 1994.

It wasn't until a year later that CNN released its own such service. Besides that, YouTube, today's most well-known non-pornographic streaming platform, wouldn't come into existence for another decade. On the other hand, the porn site XNXX was launched as early as 1997.  

Blu-Ray

Before the dawn of the Internet and after the dusk of the VHS, DVDs were the main form of video entertainment. However, when Blu-Ray came on the scene, with its expanded capabilities, DVDs quickly became a thing of the past by 2006, thanks partially to the porn industry. 

It was one of the first industries to adopt this new technology, doing so even before Hollywood itself. After all, Blu-Ray enabled it to store more nudity on a single disc than ever, which was beneficial for everyone.  

Live Interaction

Aside from watching, the adult industry soon allowed its users to interact with the content and other Internet users. Before AOL messenger came to be in the late 90s, adult websites were the only means of real-time interaction between users. Soon enough, they also introduced the option of live streaming and webcam communication. 

The commercialization of webcams and video recording equipment, in general, helped amateur and homemade porn videos take off. Any user can now create their own adult content. 

E-Commerce

When the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Jones sex tape emerged in the 90s, nobody suspected that it would bring about the development of the first online payment system. 

However, it most certainly did. Richard Gordon saw the tape as an opportunity to make a profit, so he decided to charge users for it. And thus, the Electronic Card System was born. In addition to online payments, the porn industry was one of the earliest adopters of cryptocurrency.

Offshore Web Hosting

In light of the 2021 Capitol riots, Amazon Web Services took down a right-wing “free speech” social media network Parler due to its failure to prevent the instigation of violence. Although this piece of news went viral and came as a surprise to many, it's nothing new or unusual. The porn industry has been dealing with and successfully overcoming such issues for decades, much before Parler. Regardless of its immense worldwide popularity, most tech companies refuse to have any associations with adult content.

As free speech organizations and adult entertainment companies needed to find other ways to stay online, a whole new industry of offshore web hosting started blooming. In addition, in response to such discrimination, porn sites were among the first to start setting up their own dedicated web hosts and payment processors. 

Subscriptions, Geolocation, And Affiliate Marketing

Another way in which the porn industry was revolutionary is in its marketing practices. Porn sites were one of the first to allow memberships and subscriptions. Besides that, the industry was practicing data tracking and targeted marketing way before Facebook did. For instance, it was one of the first adopters of geolocation technology, which let them personalize ads and target users of specific locations. 

The adult industry also pioneered the concept of affiliate marketing. It's one of the most cost-effective strategies for online businesses to this day, as it lets you pay for marketing only after you've earned your revenue.

Virtual Reality And Robotics

Nowadays, the porn industry invests the most resources in the development and application of virtual reality (VR) and robotics. Much like the previously listed innovations, we can expect these to become a new normal for all industries soon. After all, the consumption of VR pornography alone has skyrocketed over the last couple of years. 

When it comes to robotics, humanoid sex robots are the most recent fad. As Helen Driscoll, a sex psychologist said — “robotic, interactive, motion-sensing technology is likely to become more and more central to the sex industry in the next few years”. According to some researchers, humans will even start marrying robots by 2050. 

Covid-19 Safety

Aside from these tech innovations, the porn industry has been a role model when it comes to safety. In light of the 2020 pandemic, we should look back at how this industry handled the 90's HIV outbreak.

To protect its workers from infection, it used the Four T's model, which stands for targeting, testing, treating, and tracing. All performers in the industry had to be tested for STIs every 14 days. If their test was positive, the worker would be treated and their contacts would be traced. Experts suggest such a model could be effective in suppressing Covid-19 in the workplace today. 

The Flaws Of The Adult Industry

Nobody's perfect, and neither is the tech-savvy, broad-minded adult entertainment industry. It's been closely linked with human trafficking for years. And not just that — recently, there have been allegations that the industry's not only turning a blind eye to but also profiting off of illegal content such as child pornography. 

In 2020, a New York Times article came out accusing Pornhub of allowing unacceptable content on their website. That included child molestation, rape, revenge porn, misogynism, racism, spycam footage, even abuse, and asphyxiation. Besides that, it shared the heartbreaking stories of young women who ended up in Pornhub videos without consent and couldn't get them removed despite their best efforts. 

Later on, Laila Mickelwait created the Traffickinghub campaign with the aim of shutting Pornhub down once and for all — a petition which now has over 2 million signatures from 192 different countries. In their response blog post, Pornhub claims that it's being wrongfully targeted, solely because it's an adult content company. It also points out that other platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, are facing the same problem.

Change Is On The Way

Of course, any platform can be abused, not just porn sites, although they are the most popular among abusers. Unfortunately, while user-uploaded content allows everyone to have their 15 minutes of fame, it also implies that the company itself has almost no liability for what's being posted on its platform.

To resolve this issue, the Senate introduced a Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act of 2020 in December. This bill enables sex assault, trafficking, and revenge porn victims to take companies like Pornhub to court for hosting content depicting them without their consent. 

As a result, Pornhub had to make some quick changes. It decided to remove all content uploaded by “unverified” users, only allowing uploads from official partners and members of the “Model Program”. Besides that, users no longer have the ability to download videos, with the exception of paid content. Apart from the brand new and improved verification system, Pornhub promises to adopt better content moderation practices and release a detailed report about their 2020 activities. 

Thankfully, while it might be the first, Pornhub is not the only company to put its words into action. XHamster followed its lead, implementing more rigorous verification techniques for its uploaders (i.e. requesting IDs and other documentation). We can probably expect to see other porn sites, as well as social media companies adopting the same practices soon. After all, more and more websites are sharing the same fate as Pornhub and facing allegations of inadequate moderation. Thus, it's only a matter of time before Facebook and Instagram start requiring IDs too. 

The Bigger Issue

Unfortunately, the illegal content that can be found on X-rated websites like Pornhub is a consequence of a much larger issue of consent in the adult industry. Back in 2015, an adult actress Stoya spoke up about being raped by James Deen, a colleague of hers. This incident, as horrible as it was, encouraged others in the adult industry, as well as the entertainment industry in general, to come out with their own stories of sexual assault. 

Two years later, we saw the rise of the #MeToo movement, which brought about the imprisonment of Harvey Weinstein and Ron Jeremy. Although it didn't start the movement per se, the adult entertainment industry was among the first to tackle the issue of sexual predators. 

Finally, it seems as though the silence has been somewhat broken. People are slowly abandoning the notion that sex workers are “unrapeable” and “had it coming”. That has the potential to change how we perceive sexual misconduct, gender, and power in general. 

Conclusion

The adult entertainment industry undoubtedly has room to grow. What's more, most of the problems it's facing can't be resolved easily, requiring more than a few regulatory tweaks. 

Be that as it may, the industry seems to be making the necessary efforts to try to achieve that. In addition, nobody can deny the impact adult entertainment has had and continues to have on the world, ushering in the biggest of its changes. 

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