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Porn exists in a parallel universe, a shadowy otherworld. When you force anything into the shadows and underground, you make it a lot easier for bad things to happen, and a lot harder for good things to happen: Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO Make Love Not Porn.
As of May 2021, porn sites recorded more traffic in the US than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined. In 2019, PornHub averaged 115 million visits per day. We’d leave the post-pandemic numbers to your imagination.
The porn industry has a lot of pull, and can even move markets. In the late 1970s, VHS tapes won the videotape format war against BetaMax despite its superior resolution and audio quality. Why? Because the adult entertainment industry preferred VHS, and for a good reason: VHS tapes were cheaper and easily accessible than BetaMax. Sony reportedly wouldn’t let pornographic content on Betamax tapes, while JVC and the VHS consortium had no such policies.
The VHS reigned supreme until the arrival of DVD and then Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray beat HD DVD in the technology war, again, thanks to porn. While we can debate how socially progressive adult entertainment is, we can’t deny the fact that it is edgy. When it comes to technology, the adult entertainment industry is not just an early adopter but also a frontrunner.
In the 90s, Penthouse hit on a brilliant idea and started offering 2400-baud modems to readers, allowing them faster access to the XXX bulletin boards. According to a 2003 Nielsen study, music and pornography accounted for the majority of broadband usage in Europe.
Adult entertainment pushed for and drove access to high-speed internet. Then, the industry started focusing on high-quality live streaming. The runaway success of sites like OnlyFans is the result of superior live streaming tech.
Porn is one of the most-watched genres on the Internet. And data is the major driver of this industry. Sites like PornHub collect a lot of user data to optimise the user experience. Streaming platforms turn your data into valuable insights, allowing them to identify opportunity areas to exploit. However, such practices aren’t all bad: The insights can lead to better business and creative decisions.
In 2019, PornHub, owned by MindGeek, transferred 6,597 petabytes of data—and that’s just one site. Porn sites collect massive amounts of sensitive data, such as search queries, digital footprints, personal preferences etc.
What kind of data does PornHub have on you?
For unregistered users, Pornhub collects contact information (if you fill out a survey), viewing history, interactions with advertisements, IP address, network info and device information.
For registered users, the company collects email addresses, date of birth, gender, interests and preferences, payment information, interactions on their site (such as comments), etc. Pornhub uses the data to optimise its services, customise content and advertisements, etc. PornHub may also share information with third-party service providers.
MindGeek’s competitive advantage comes from its ability to turn insights from its user data (porn analytics) to deliver highly customised content, which in turn leads to more clicks, views, and thus revenue. Creating an account or profile on most porn sites is free and requires only your name, birth date, and gender. MindGeek claims it does not sell user data.
Most of the adult sites work on a freemium model. Such sites mine the user data and use optimal AI/ML models to deliver highly personal and immersive experiences to attract paying customers.
VR technology makes the experience of watching porn more intimate. Though virtual reality was first developed for gaming purposes, the porn industry sensed an opportunity and immediately pounced. The major players in the industry have developed VR goggles to design more immersive experiences.
Virtual reality (VR) porn is projected to become a USD 1 billion business by 2025. Meanwhile, the virtual reality video game market size is expected to reach USD 1.4 billion and VR NFL-related content market is expected to hit USD 1.23 billion by 2025.
Platforms like OnlyFans (OF) have changed the dynamics of the adult industry. Their business model is simple: Fans can sign up for exclusive content and videos. OnlyFans has also evolved into a place where pornstars can develop more personal relationships with their fans.
In August 2021, OF announced it would ban sexually explicit content on its platform. The company reversed its decision five days later. The demand-supply always applies.
Meta and Instagram have strict policies against explicit content. In November, Meta’s new CTO, Andrew Bosworth, said the company’s metaverse operations would be subject to “almost Disney levels of safety”.
Today, a lot of performers and tech developers are creating interactive sexual experiences via VR, AI, and teledildonics (aka, Bluetooth-enabled sex toys). After all, virtual sex is already a thing. So why not use the metaverse to facilitate affirmative, consensual, and good sexual experiences?
The metaverse has the potential to democratise intimate experiences by making spaces accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Virtual spaces in the metaverse can promote sexual wellness. Tech advancements continue to do wonders for the industry, and for the time being, it appears that the possibilities are as wild as the industry itself.