We don’t think twice about how things like Netflix or webcams came about, but you may be surprised to hear that the technology that we use today to quell our hunger for nonstop entertainment is heavily influenced by the adult entertainment industry.
From VHS to VR, the adult industry has always been an early adopter of technology, and their revenues funded innovation. When it comes to technology, erotica leads and mainstream follows.
The internet bytes
While the military created the internet, the adult industry was the first to take advantage of it. During the 80s, BBSs (Bulletin Board System) – precursors to today’s peer-to-peer file sharing forums – were the first homes of pornography online where users shared dirty images in ASCII code in an age of limited bandwidth.
During this time, instead of downloading Hollywood movies, people were looking to download their porn faster. By 2004, a Nielsen/NetRatings study found pornography to be one of the biggest factors behind broadband penetration in Europe. In 2018, just one popular adult website alone saw 33.5 billion visits.
Subscribing to perversion
The true innovator of the content subscription model wasn’t Netflix. In the days of BBS, people realised that the most popular shared files were smutty photos. Enterprising folks then started to charge for access to their systems, creating the very first online subscription model.
The adult industry had the biggest impact on ecommerce way before PayPal. In the 1990s when companies pioneered online credit card transactions, their biggest source of revenue were adult sites which created some of the first online payment programmes. They were also the first to do a real-time credit card verification.
The industry was also responsible for developing one of the first web analytics tools (1996) to count unique visitors, and the double opt-in process – where you sign up to a site and they ask you to verify your email – pioneered by Cybererotica.
Live action in your face
Sites like Youtube wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for adult entertainment companies trying to live stream performances directly to consumers. Pioneered in 1991, live streaming wasn’t mainstream until 1996 when college student Jenny Ringley set up a webcast from her room, creating the very first streaming channel.
However, the first workable internet-based video streaming system can be credited to the Dutch porn company Red Light District back in 1994. Even with low bandwidth, they allowed users to stream online without plugins – by the time Hollywood attempted this, there were already tens of thousands of full-length adult titles online.
Then came live chat between consumers and performers – thanks to its high revenue, porn companies were driving this technology. Without them, we wouldn’t have things like WhatsApp or Skype.
Homemade is best
When digital cameras became the norm on smartphones, no one understood their use better than the porn industry. The web has allowed the distribution of homemade adult videos, so it could be argued that before social media, it was porn that introduced the concept of user-created content.
The adult industry was also an early adopter of inventions like Polaroid and Super 8 cameras, since both formats allowed for the average person to produce homemade erotica.
The future of lust
When Apple released the iPad, they expressly forbade pornographic content on their store. However, the adult industry quickly responded by using the HTML5 video standard, allowing them to stream naughty vids.
Like Apple, manufacturers of VR goggles like Facebook aren’t allowing any adult content in their stores, but according to HuffPost, VR adult entertainment is the latest tech trend that’s said to make for about 30% of all data transferred over the internet. VR content from one major online adult site clocked in over 500,000 views per day.
In an era of user-friendly AI, porn has been the biggest proponent of deepfakes, which are now mainly used to create fake celebrity pornographic videos.
The adult industry has grabbed technology and applied it to consumers’ needs, wants, and desires since forever, but until society looks past its steamy content and to its true significance, the actual impact of erotica will remain largely unheard.