Digital Love – How Pornography Made the Internet As We Know It
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Humans have been obsessed with pornography since the dawn of civilization. Carvings on cave walls depict it, magazines from a century ago are filled with it and some of the first films ever made involve pretty young ladies stripping down to their skivvies.
So when engineers in the ’70s invented a multi-terminal computer network they called the “Internet,” can you guess what the first industry to set up shop online was? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t Amazon.
Since sex always sells, no matter the market or method of delivery, pornographers have often been among the first to invest in new online technologies and services. As a result, many of the features that you enjoy on the Internet every day can be traced back to their original purpose – helping us get frisky. Don’t believe it? Then check out these Internet innovations that owe their creation to the porn industry:
• Online Chat
If you’ve been on a computer in the last decade then you should be familiar with AIM, AOL’s online chat service. Although AIM is less popular these days, during the late ’90s the service’s little yellow mascot walked his way into the hearts of millions of Internet users, and he’s still the first thing most people think of when they hear the term “instant message.”
But this little man wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for sex chat rooms. That’s right – the first online chat service was essentially a sex forum hosted by porn websites that allowed people to live out their naughty fantasies anonymously, one sentence at a time. It was through these websites that AOL got the idea to introduce a free online chat system, which resulted in an industry-insider nickname for AOL: The House that Sex Chat Built.
• Credit Card Processing Services
These days, if you want to buy a new Lelo Soraya you don’t even need to get off the couch. Just enter your payment information into a handy checkout service and let the merchant handle the rest. Easy enough, right? Well, buying sex toys online – or anything else for that matter – wouldn’t be such a breeze if porn websites hadn’t pioneered credit-card processing software.
In the mid-’90s, sites like ClubLove boosted the Internet’s total revenue by billions when they offered people the chance to see Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee get down and dirty in exchange for an anonymous charge on their credit card. It was only after these pay-for-lay sites set the groundwork for online money transfers that online shopping giants eBay and Amazon rose to power.
• Spam and Spyware
Not every digital innovation sired by pornography has been a good one. If you’ve ever tried to check out pictures of people getting frisky on an outdated web browser like Internet Explorer, you’re probably familiar with the explosion of invincible (and often disgusting) pop-up ads that blanket your desktop after one wrong click of the mouse.
Although porn sites have been on the vanguard of technological innovation since the Internet’s inception, they’ve also been a favorite proving ground for malicious programmers who like to test their viruses and spyware in such places.
And spam was born here.
Your “junk” folder owes its very existence to the hardwired impulse, so common among pornographers, to email not-safe-for-work ads to everyone, including your mom. In another life, these webmasters would have been trawl fishermen.
• Broadband Internet
As porn rapidly grew into the most popular thing to do on the Internet in the early ’90s, many fine triple-X purveyors needed to find a way to ease access to their staggeringly overstuffed servers. The solution, as Hustler Magazine found out, was for users to turbo-charge their modems.
The enterprising skin peddlers at Hustler handed out tons of broadband modems over the course of a decade, which some experts cite as a key reason that high-speed Internet became the new standard for personal use.
Forget Facebook, Myspace, Digg and Reddit, because porn sites were sharing content and traffic with one another way before it was cool. These steamy sites weren’t just playing around with the idea of a collective sex forum. Instead, they banded together and offered their services as a package, pooling their resources and mailing lists and attracting customers from far and wide – from other genres, even. They even hosted ads for one another in order to increase the industry’s total revenue – which they did, to the tune of several billion dollars.
As you can see, pretty much everything on the Internet owes its existence to porn. Not only have enterprising pornographers revolutionized the digital frontier by introducing online chatting and networking, but they’re also continuing to develop it today by sponsoring new advances in phone-to-phone video chat and streaming HD video.
So the next time you pick up your shiny new Lelo Soraya, be thankful that the porn industry has enabled you to buy something so wonderful, so easily. No need to get out of bed and walk into a store anymore. Just click “buy,” then sit back and relax for a little while. Before you know it, the vibrator delivery man will be there, knocking at your door. And now you know who to thank.