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80,259 News Articles

12 ways porn shaped the internet

How adult content improved the web's infrastructure

2. Naughty: Spam


The sex industry didn't invent spam, but it provided ample proof of just how profitable a spam-driven business could be. In the late 1990s countless daily come-ons for porn sites were a fact of life for most people with an inbox. Between 2001 and 2002, adult-oriented spam rose by 450 percent, according to Cyber Atlas. By April 2003, one out of every five spam messages sent were for adult sites. However, by October 2008, that number had shrunk to a puny 2 percent, according to Symantec's State of Spam report [PDF], eclipsed by unsolicited offers for loans, pills, and other spam scams.

3. Nice: Streaming Content


Before CNN.com or YouTube started filling the internet with streaming video, X-rated sites were pumping out videos of adult stars doing what comes naturally (or not), over and over and over.

In a May 2001 interview with NPR, Danni Ashe, founder of seminal softcore site Danni's Hard Drive, noted that "the adult entertainment industry was the first to use streaming JPEG push video, which was video that worked...in the browser and didn't require a plug-in. I think as an industry we tend to jump in a little bit faster and tweak the technology and try to get it to work faster."

In 2003, Acacia Research sued dozens of porn sites for allegedly violating its patents on streaming video. The patent portfolio company sued the pornsters in part because they were easy targets, but also because that's where most of the video action was. Subsequently Acacia got around to securing licences from Disney, the New York Times, and other less titillating video streamers.

"Without programming pioneers trying to perfect video streaming software that would deliver images of copulation and procreation to paying customers hooked up with a 28.8kbps dial-up modem, it is unlikely that CNN would be effectively delivering news clips of global breaking news," wrote Lewis Perdue in Eroticabiz.

4. Naughty: Malware


Porn sites in the past were notorious for siccing drive-by malware infections on good-time charlies who came looking for a little fun. Visitors could catch the malicious software either by clicking thumbnail galleries or by downloading new 'video codecs' that actually contained Trojans (and no, not that kind of Trojan -- Trojan horses). These days, drive-by infections continue to rage online - but they're no longer restricted to the seamy side of the web; you can run into them (if you're unlucky) on legitimate sites, trying to exploit security flaws in Internet Explorer.

The results can be devastating. Just ask Julie Amero, a Connecticut substitute teacher who was horrified to find herself facing prosecution (and the possibility of up to 40 years in prison) after a computer loaded with spyware displayed pornography to her students. Fortunately for Amero, computer security professionals convinced the judge that she was merely an innocent victim of spyware programs that had taken control of the school's computer and had launched a blizzard of pop-up porn windows.


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