FEED Issue 15

72 OVER THE TOP Adult Content

Words by Neal Romanek WHEN TABOO MEETS TECH Erotic content is as old as humanity, but when it’s supercharged with high technology, all kinds of other issues arise

ake two dolphins and give them a big mirror and they’ll watch themselves having sex. Big- brained mammals apparently

the VHS edge into a landslide victory and certainly had an effect in accelerating the uptake of VCRs. It’s not an understatement to say that home video created a booming porn industry – and far from destroying the movie industry, as was once feared, gave it a new revenue stream. ENTER THE INTERNET As soon as the internet appeared, it was used as a means to access adult content. The worldwide distributed discussion board, Usenet, built in the 1980s, was an early place for people to exchange text-based content. The world wide web and image-based content quickly followed and soon after came downloadable video. As quality streaming hit the internet, it was adult content that pushed the limits of

CDNs and hogged bandwidth, well before the advent of YouTube and Netflix. By one estimate, 30% of all bandwidth on the internet is taken up by porn. Pornhub offers an ‘Insights’ page (pornhub.com/insights) in which the company self reports some of its numbers. There’s no telling for certain whether this is Pornhub just bragging about its size, but given all the other data we have access to, the size of the numbers looks reasonable. In 2018, Pornhub registered 33.5 billion visits (an increase over 2017 of five billion), a daily average of around 92 million visits. Pornhubs servers returned 30.3 billion searches (962 searches per second). There’s more: in 2018, 4.79 million new videos were uploaded to Pornhub, totalling more than a million hours of content, with

take an interest in watching “The Act”. So we shouldn’t be surprised that sex-related content has lead the way when it comes to the evolution of media technology - probably since the Venus Of Willendorf was carved. But it was the advent of home video where erotic content became a force that could make or break an industry. The accepted wisdom – virtually urban legend – is that in the home video format wars of the 1980s, Sony’s Betamax tape was finally beaten out by VHS as the accepted home video format, because the exploding LA- based porn industry had decided that VHS was its format of choice for release. The truth is a bit more complex. Sony had been trying to corner the market with its proprietary Betamax format. Rival companies, such as JVC, decided to throw their weight behind VHS, though it was an inferior format. VHS quickly became an open standard for distribution and easily adopted. The porn industry turned


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