Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 1 of 3

According to a New York Times article in October 2000, still in the World Wide Web’s first decade, some 20 percent of AT&T broadband customers were paying considerable amounts of money to watch real, live, red-blooded, all-American sex online. With speeds now considered glacially slow, cable and DSL service cost upwards of $60, and viewing a short video clip could set you back $10.

By 2003, a study by Nielsen/NetRatings was reporting that pornography and music/film piracy were the most influential factors driving broadband penetration. In other words, what everyone in the porn business knew intuitively, and could discuss anecdotally, finally got its scientific imprimatur. By 2010, another decade in the Web’s adolescence, this was all common knowledge, though it was quite distasteful for some of the Religious Right to admit.

Necessity, the mother of invention

Because of a huge audience willing to spend hard-earned cash on personal, media-centric sexual entertainment, innovators and entrepreneurs coalesced to create the content and the tools that consumers needed. Porn-driven advances include modern means of credit card clearing; methodologies for discovering and plugging browser security holes; as well as traffic optimization, mobile services, promotion of the open source movement, and encryption technologies.

Today, one of the biggest areas of development in the porn industry is adding the sense of touch to technology, called haptics. Even with the advent of live chat, the porn experience was insensate and two-dimensional, at best. Certainly, porn consumers wanted to be on the receiving end, but the first use of haptics headed the other direction.

Shrinking Violet? No way

“Teledildonics” is the term author and sex educator Violet Blue, proprietress of the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) site Tiny Nibbles, gave to the first generation of tech-enabled peer-to-peer sex work. Adding a remote-controlled sex toy to a live webcam session was a natural progression, with Blue telling PC World magazine that it may herald “the death of the pimp.”

Although that hasn’t happened, Blue assures interested parties that “it remains in lucrative commercial use.” In coming years, though, you can expect a two-lane highway, thanks to another frontier in haptics.

Next time in Part 2: Interactivity, innovation, introspection…

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