The #1 innovator of the Internet Not what you might think

We all use the Internet everyday for a variety of reasons. Many of the innovations that we take for granted when we use them online come from one industry. Are you sitting down? Good. Many of those innovations come from the adult pornographic industry.

The military created the Internet but once it began to reach the mainstream, like with any frontier town in the Wild West, a red-light district of sorts appeared. The Internet would not have been sustainable with only scientists sharing research papers and discussing ideas. A part of the Internet came into existence to provide what is essentially the world’s oldest profession and it took off. Early photographers (and by that we mean early 20th century before the Internet and even the 19th century as well) depended on the sale of pornography to keep them in business and this led to the invention of microphotography so the images could be hidden from view, or what we know today as microfilm so this is nothing new. The birth of the pornographic industry is widely believed to be with the 1896 film Le Coucher de la Mariée (Bedtime for the Bride) which actually played in a reputable Parisian movie house.

One quarter of all Internet searches are pornographic related. One out of every ten websites around the world are pornographic related, around 4.2 million of them. At any one time 60 million people around the world are watching porn. These websites draw more visitors than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined. With such a massive presence it should be no surprise that it has spurred innovation.

Have you ever bought something online? E-commerce started with the porn industry (now you could have something mailed discreetly to your home rather than having your car or person seen in the parking lot of your local adult store) as did subscription services which pioneered sites like eBay, PayPal, and other e-commerce sites. Richard Gordon founded Electronic Card Systems which allowed for credit card transactions to pornographic sites. He hit it big taking a commission on all sales from retailers, which proved to be a lucrative business when one of his clients released the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee tape.

The need to watch streaming video recorded live on a new device called a webcam and download pictures and video lead to an increase in the need for bandwidth, which forced ISPs to expand their services. When people would watch the videos some also became interested in the dialogue. Subtitles and closed captioning technology evolved thanks to this need into what it is today. Adult websites also began the online model of offering something for free to entice users in and once they have joined trying to upsell them. Ok, that may not be unique to the Internet but they were the first to do it in that medium.

Anyone remember the VHS vs. Betamax war? Porn decided the winner. VHS was more widely coveted since not only could someone record a 3 hour movie but it allowed full length pornographic movies and Sony, one of the early pioneers of these formats, refused to allow their Betamax tapes to be used to sell porn. It was a quick demise and this was a huge deal when these players cost several hundred dollars each. More recently was the question of Blu-Ray or HD DVD. Guess what, porn picked Blu-Ray.

The digital camera was a huge time and money saver in the industry and it became a relief not to have to take film to be developed to the local store or to have to buy the expensive equipment to develop it yourself. Sales of digital camera equipment skyrocketed and replaced the Super 8mm camera which was cheap and easy to use and also helped to make 8mm film the standard medium for movies in the 1950s on.

Porn is also leading the innovation of virtual reality and it is expected to be a billion dollar industry by 2025. Robotics is already popular, but guess what, it will really take off when they can be programmed to fill our sexual needs. It’s a matter of time and it is believed that a human could marry a robot by 2050. AI is being programmed to chat realistically in chat rooms with humans already. Haptic technology already exists to provide a touch and feel sensation for men wanting to experience what it is like to have a child kicking in the womb. You better believe it is going to be used for other things soon.

While you may not spend any time in that quarter of the Internet its effects are felt by us everyday. Not every innovation was developed with good and holy intentions and sometimes you need to take the bad with the good. If you didn’t, imagine what things would look like today. Hope you like dial-up!

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