Porn Studies > Porn in the News
Washington Post, 1/22/06 - At the adult entertainment industry's equivalent of the Oscars in Las Vegas this month, comedian-host Greg Fitzsimmons zeroed in on the relationship between the Internet and pornography.
"The Internet was completely funded by porn," he said from the stage of the 23rd annual AVN Awards show. And if it wasn't for the Internet, he added, "you guys would be completely out of business."
The audience, packed with porn actors and adult entertainment moguls like Jenna Jameson and Larry Flynt, roared with laughter.
Last week, the Justice Department said it subpoenaed four major Internet companies in an effort to crack down on children's access to porn. The government asked Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to turn over every query typed into its popular search engine over the course of one week. Google has said it will resist the demand.
The standoff has resonated in the online world not only because of its privacy implications, but also because it goes to the heart of what has spurred the Internet to such prodigious growth. Online pornography, a $2.5 billion business and growing rapidly, pioneered such now-commonplace practices as streaming video, trading files and making online purchases. By comparison, sales of music downloads totaled $1.1 billion last year.
It's an old joke that every new technology is driven by porn: A big attraction for digital cameras, some hold, was the ability to take bedroom photos without having to take film to the snickering teenagers at the corner photo shop. And a force behind the rapid spread of VCR and, later, DVD sales was the ability to watch blue movies without being seen at a theater.
More recently, when Apple announced an iPod with video playback capabilities, there was a stampede among adult entertainment companies to announce they were making video programming available in the player's format. Mobile porn is already such a booming business that it has its own trade show, the Mobile Adult Content Congress, which will take place in Miami this week.
"Of course pornography has played a key role in the Web," said Paul Saffo, an analyst with Silicon Valley think tank Institute for the Future. Explicit images have been key in the advent of many technologies, he said. "Porn is to new media formats what acne is to teenagers," he said. "It's just part of the process of growing up."
Pornography is a murky industry to track. A quick search on the term "porn" turned up 41.2 million hits on Google on Friday, compared with 194 million for "iPod" — and 551 million for the word "blog."
How many adult-oriented sites are on the World Wide Web depends a lot on whom you ask. Porn historian Ralph Whittington, a former curator at the Library of Congress who built a museum-quality personal collection of X-rated magazines and videos, said he believes there are about 200,000 pornographic sites on the Web. On the other hand, the Web site Internet Filter Review said it calculates there are 4.2 million pornographic sites online, based on its own research.
It's more difficult still to track how many mainstream companies derive revenue from the industry, from search engines such as Google to video streaming providers such as RealNetworks.
Mainstream companies rarely specify how much money they earn from the skin trade. "They don't like to talk about it," said Sasa Zorovic, an analyst for Oppenheimer & Co. "It's a huge, huge market. Yet no one will say a word about it."
Rob Enderle, a tech industry analyst, said technology and pornography have an interdependent relationship that tech pundits don't often acknowledge.
"So much of the technology that we're using now for less risque purposes had its origins in porn," said Enderle, who pointed to online streaming video as one major example.
Entire porn empires have been built by production companies selling streaming video programs on the Internet. Naughty America, one such company, has been in the business for five years but only last year decided to make some of its programming available on DVD.
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Porn Studies > Porn in the News
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