Show Me Your Tech: How Pornhub Has Influenced Internet Technology

Prior to the 2020 pandemic, the Consumer Electronics Show –or CES for short –was one of the biggest platforms for tech companies to showcase their most advanced products. Post-covid, however, and the CES became just another laptop-and-smartphone con that, while impressive, wasn’t exactly at the forefront of innovation.

Think about it: for most of the 2010s, the CES was like Disneyland for adults: this is where we were introduced to the concept of the now-infamous Google Glass, the strange but highly-sought-after ‘Pregnancy Belt’, and many other wondrous inventions, both mainstream and otherwise, that have made consumers everywhere just that much satisfied. And all this tech has one thing to thank: porn.

Websites like Pornhub –one of the world’s largest and most profitable adult sites –are practical testing grounds for many of the internet’s hottest tech, and why wouldn’t it: they have the money, they have willing test subjects, and they have the expertise. Here are just some of the tech Pornhub and other adult websites have pioneered over the past couple of decades.

Pornhub was at the Forefront of Online Payments

Porn sites make their money primarily through online advertisements and, most importantly, online sales of their products. In the early days of the internet, adult sites were one of the first to utilize credit cards to complete online sales. They became so ubiquitous with online sales that they became the model for most modern online sales mechanisms like monthly subscriptions, upselling ‘premium’ content to existing subscribers, using free materials to entice site visitors to sign up, and so on and so forth.

Because porn sites use online payments, the need for cyber-security was also tested and perfected by sites like Pornhub, which was one of the first adult sites to accept cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum as a form of secure, anonymous payments. In fact, it’s fair to say that porn sites are responsible for how modern video streaming platforms charge their customers and how they keep your information secure.

If it weren’t for the monthly subscriptions you paid back in the late ‘90s using your dad’s credit card, you wouldn’t be able to watch Netflix.

Adult Websites Pioneered Haptic Tech

Earlier, we mentioned the ‘Pregnancy Belt’, a product by diaper-giant Huggies as a way for expectant fathers to ‘feel’ the pain of carrying a child using haptic feedback technology. It’s basically a glorified, vibrating belt that replicated the feeling of a baby kicking in the womb.

While haptic feedback technology has been around since smartphones, websites like Pornhub and other adult toy companies were one of the first to test out this tech outside of mobile phone applications.

OhMiBod, an adult toy manufacturer, is best known for a product called the “BetaBeat”, a smartphone-controlled sex toy that allows people to control a vibrator through an app. It’s one of the most well-known products of the burgeoning ‘teledildonics’ industry, which sounds exactly what you think it is: an entire industry dedicated to the creation of sex toys that people control via the internet. And, of course, it uses haptic feedback as its main technological draw.

Pornhub and Other Adult Sites Killed Betamax, then the VHS, then HD DVD

In pornography, video quality is everything, which is why it was at the forefront of every video recording technology since the first moving pictures. Back in the ‘50s, the use of Super 8 film became pretty much standard for every budding amateur pornographer, and for good reason: Super 8 films and cameras were cheap, they were easy to use, and was accessible to every Tom, Dick, and Harry (sometimes all three at the same time) out there. It didn’t take long for porn companies to use the Super 8 as their go-to film format.

Of course, it didn’t last long: by the ‘70s, Betamax and VHS were battling over which company would become the household name for home movies. Betamax boasted better quality, but only 60 minutes of footage, while VHS had lesser quality but boasted a whopping 3 hours of recordable tape. While the battle raged on for quite a while, the final nail in the Betamax coffin was set when Sony –the company responsible for Betamax –banned the use of their tech to record smut.

This proved practically catastrophic, as porn companies switched over to VHS en masse. How catastrophic? Well, by the start of the ‘80s, porn films accounted for more than 50% of all videotape sales in the United States, despite the fact that a VHS player cost well over $800 at the time.

The porn industry’s influence over home video tech would continue on between the CD and the LaserDisc feuds, VCD vs. DVD, and then HD DVD and Blu-Ray. Sure, HD DVD had better quality, but Blu-Ray sacrificed a small percentage of that quality for longer recording capabilities, which porn companies liked.

It also helped that sites like Pornhub preferred Blu-ray because it was easier to encode it to a digital format as compared to HD DVD, which further cemented Sony’s Blu-ray tech into the American consumer business space. Think of it this way: if porn didn’t find a way to convert Debbie Does Dallas from VHS to DVD, you wouldn’t be watching that extended director’s cut of The Return of the King.

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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Pornhub and Other Adult Websites Pioneered Many Internet Tech, Including SEO

In the early days of the internet, search engines like AskJeeves, AltaVista (did we trigger a ‘90s flashback where you surfed for porn in your family’s ‘computer room’?), and of course the early version of Google, utilized what it called ‘keywords’ for their system to find indexed sites in their database. Keywords and search engines in the late ‘90s were crude things, with engines ranking websites based on how often keywords were used instead of measuring for quality usage.

Over time, porn sites like Pornhub had to develop a better system: the videos they uploaded also contained meta tags and used keywords to make searchability on their native search engine much easier, but they had to refine it so that perverts could find more relevant videos to their searches.

To this end, porn sites like Pornhub utilized a then-new technology called latent semantic indexing, or LSI, that allowed their algorithms to detect whether a certain set of keywords were closely related to another set of keywords. Of course, they didn’t invent LSI, but they were one of the first commercial websites to apply it to their business model.

LSI is crucial because it’s what allows search engines like Google to be smarter about their search results, and it all started because sites like Pornhub wanted to differentiate ‘naked girl’ from ‘neko girl’, unless you’re into that sort of thing (we’re not).

Of course, finding a video is one thing, but what about playing a video? Pornhub and other porn sites had to figure out a way to present large video files seamlessly. Video buffering tech, which is the ability to play large video files over the internet without storage needs from the user, was tested and pioneered by Pornhub and other adult sites as a way to get their videos across the web without making their users wait for too long.

Buffering allowed the servers to load video files in pieces, which meant that, say, a 12-minute video can be chopped up into easier-to-load 1-2 minute video files, which is good because, let’s be honest, most of us don’t stay for the full 12.

Thank You for your Service, Pornhub

Pornography has been a driving force of technological innovation since Man first invented the wheel and another man said, “you know we could use this to have sex in”. It’s not far off to say that most technical marvels in the 20th century wouldn’t exist if porn companies weren’t there to happily test out the prototypes.

Heck, CES itself probably wouldn’t have the turnouts it used to have if it weren’t for the fact that the AVN Awards, the largest and most prestigious pornography awards show, wasn’t traditionally held on the same day in the same venue as CES.

In fact, most of the internet probably wouldn’t exist without porn: while the origins of the internet had its start as a way for the U.S. military to share sensitive data and documents across different bases, it was porn that pushed the internet from a quirky communications tool into the culture-defining tech it is today: by pushing bandwidth requirements and convincing telco’s that they needed to step up their internet speeds.

Without internet pornography, there would be no home videos, no VHS, no DVD, and no internet. So thank you, Pornhub, thank you for making the internet such a wonderful –albeit at times kinda gross –place to be in!

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