Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Internet was Born for Porn

We all have been enjoying the Interweb so much recently we almost cannot imagine a time when it wasn’t here. Google, Blogger and how did we ever live without YouTube? It’s at times like these that we should pause and reflect on a era when the Internet was in its infancy. But it wasn’t until the Internet reached it’s horny adolescence that its technology truly burgeoned and blossomed. And like any adolescent, its meteoric rise to maturity was driven by one singularly driving force – Sex.

Yes, we can thank Porn for the Internet we have today. The lustful pursuit of anonymous lasciviousness heralded the emergence of all those apps and widgets we depend on so much now. That is because most of the Internet technology we rely upon was developed to satisfy the demand to deliver quick, readily accessible, full living color, porn.

I accessed my first internet account two decades ago via a dial-up modem through the local university. Back then, access was free. The precursor of today's Internet, ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense (yes, government; not private business) as a "fail-safe" uninterruptible communication system. It connected data centers of mostly governmental, university and some private contractors for research and development purposes. Everything was completely "text-based" back then; single color and rather arcane. We connected between computers using Telnet and transferred data via FTP.

Those early days was an age of technological innocence; like when we used to be able to leave our houses unlocked when we were kids. There was no spam, no virus's and very little in the way of hacking. "Online" civility was the norm; most of us were professionals; engineers, scientists and academics, men predominantly - and young, under-socialized, geeky and horny males, namely, college students.

At first we were sharing information, documents mostly; hosted online and communicating with one another through e-mail. There were also programs and a few rudimentary games, but to transfer them around from place to place one needed to convert the binary files into text to move them over the phone line to the home PC. Once received, the text had to be converted back into binary format. It was a cumbersome process, but occasionally the files yielded a delightful surprise. Some of these binary files contained scans of photos from Penthouse, Playboy and other adult magazines. Below is an example of what raw internet data and picutre files looked like back then:



I must confess that I spent a goodly portion of my online time downloading, concatinating and converting these text files to reveal the salacious pixels within. Never mind that it often took hours of my phone being tied up to eventually see a grainy picture of a naked woman. The silly thing was that I could just as easily see these pictures, in all their glossy glory, were I to just simply schlep down to the local convenience store and purchase the actual magazine. But the fact that we could even DO this process was half the thrill in itself.

But herein lay the magic (and the potential) of this new technology – We no longer had to show our embarrassed faces at the convenience store; we could all now indulge our visual fantasies in the privacy of our own homes.

Parallel to this technological Renaissance came the development of the VCR and cam-corders; heralded as significant a technological advance to the sex business as the Guttenberg printing press was to movable type. Soon techies were piecing together .GIF files in sequence to make staccato zoetrope style rudimentary movies. Similarly motivated engineers soon developed more sophisticated .AVI and .MPG image compression technologies to squeeze multiple images into smoother flowing video files; all of which led directly to the development of the DVD.

By now the World Wide Web and the first web browser had been developed and web sites were popping up like weeds. Converging also were the visionaries who saw the marketing potential of the Internet - and as all marketing types know full well: what else sells better than sex! The nude digital genie had been released from the bottle, there was now no turning back.

Today the porn market has declined to roughly 6% of all internet traffic. It is estimated that at least a quarter of Internet users have accessed an adult web site at some time. "Sex had played a major role in driving many technologies," says Jonathan Coopersmith, a technology historian at Texas A&M. [1]

“Internet porn sites are also one of the few web services that make money.” [2] Internet pornography … helped spur the adoption of e-commerce, online payment systems, broadband connections, streaming and live video, and much more.” [3]

For better or worse, Internet porn is the “gorilla in the living room” (wink to Mr. Bananas) and though it may not be right out there wiggling directly in your face, it isn’t very difficult to find. Like it or hate it, porn has been instrumental in fleshing out the Internet technology we enjoy today. And who can say - perhaps that's even a good thing.

References

1. “Thank Sex For Making The Internet Hot”, National Public Radio
2. “The dirty secret that drives new technology: it's porn”, The UK Guardian
3. The Economics of Pornography. ~ Kirk Doran

16 comments:

Charlie said...

"porn has been instrumental in fleshing out the Internet technology"

Very nicely said.

I remember ARPANET from college in 1971 or so. Your snippet of photo code still looks pretty much the same today. And I always wondered about the sanity of the fellows who could write assembly code.

The porn industry is now experimenting with the ins and outs of 3-D. Don't ask me how I know. What I'm really waiting for is holography.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Charlie If I act quickly, maybe I can patent the "Oggle Goggles" before someone else does.

Charlie said...

I'd start today if I were you. The Koreans are darn fast when it comes to porn.

Mary Witzl said...

Damn, Charlie beat me to it: what a great pun that 'fleshing out' was -- I am in awe!

I like the idea of guys taking ages to decode naughty pictures. Things invariably mean more when you have to work on them. Kids nowadays will never know the thrill of finding an illicit magazine stash or racy book. So tragic.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Mary Kids nowadays will never know the thrill of finding an illicit magazine stash or racy book. So tragic.

However tragedy can be averted once the youth gets a grasp of the situation and learns to take matters into their own hands.

TechnoBabe said...

Your post is informative and the comments add to the post in another way. For me, I have not seen porn on the internet but when I google something I see pictures that are a little too grown up for my grandkids and I know there is no way to prevent young people from seeing it. Probably compared to other countries we are outdated. I stand up for everyones right to see what they want and say what they want. Anyway, I like how you explained the beginnings of the internet we now pretty much cannot live without. Heaven forbid there is a power failure. Lucky people with battery power.

Robert the Skeptic said...

TechnoBabe Indeed sometimes we debate if we are going to take our laptop computer with us when we go on vacation. Often we opt not to. We do get VERY dependent on our little technology fixes!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

My job deals with young teens. The "kids these days" have been raised on the internet. They have had access to pornography from day one. I see, over and over again, twelve and thirteen year-olc sex offenders. These are basically good kids, both boys and girls. I live in a small rural area, and the numbers are substantial. They are acting out what they have seen, and I believe much of it comes from the internet. There is a generation of kids who will have sex offender on their record, and may be subjected to unbelievable consequences as a result. There is always a downside to new technology.

Robert the Skeptic said...

BackRow There's always that edge one walks between what is "normal" adolescent sexual curiosity and development, versus stepping over that line into sexual offenses. The debate hotly continues whether porn is a cause or an effect of aberrant sexual behavior.

Though I am not well versed on teen sexual offenders, my wife worked with adult sexual offenders as a child services caseworker. Much of what her clients were doing, their stepping over those boundaries, had more to do with power and control; sexual abuse being just one of many ways they manifested their abuse.

There is actually an interesting web site called "Art or Porn - You Decide" which probably further blurs the distinction between Pornography versus Erotic Art.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I've heard there are live sites where you can chat with a "model" and tell her to do stuff. I'd love to go one of those sites and tell her to sing "Big Bottom" by Spinal Tap. I've never actually heard a woman say the words "Big Bottom". Do you think they find the concept too painful?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas I am most certain the young woman would sing pretty much anything in exchange for your VISA, Master or Discover card number.

I hear these services are very popular ways for young women to earn college tuition money; they set their own hours, they are inside in comfortable working conditions. I would guess the only real requirement is that you like people.

Jerry said...

You left a comment on my site and trailed you back here...and I've read and read...I think back to your first post.

No specific comment...just note that you are appreciated.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Jerry That is quite a compliment. Thank you, Sir.

GutsyWriter said...

Gutsy post from you. As usual, I like your honesty. You must have done quite a bit of research on the porn industry on the Internet.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gutsy If I present a claim (versus merely an opinion)in my blogging, I feel it is prudent to at least do a rudimentary check of the validity of that claim.

Then again some subjects are more interesting than others. *wink*

Joanna Cake said...

When I was the favourite blog of the week at Kristen Diaries, I got 22000 hits in one day.

I never managed to repeat that feat since I refuse to put up naked pictures EVERY day ;P

Talking to the webmaster of a another sex-based picture site, that is a low figure. There is no doubt about it, sex sells... especially if you can ogle in anonymity.