The Porn Business: Whatever Else You May Say About Them, They Are Often Out in Front on Technology

As a society, the issue of pornography is one that divides us in more ways than those who like and those that don’t. But one point about the porn industry is not open to argument: they are frequently the movers and shakers in Internet-based and communications technology.

Long before many of us imagined downloading large numbers of songs or watching movies online, forward thinkers in the massive adult entertainment industry were very much geared toward how to get content out to the consumer in new and novel ways. Even a short video clip, after all, may be three or four minutes long and require tremendous bandwidth – or innovative workarounds – to dish up to the customer. Or, more specifically, deliver that material in a way that is fluid, smooth, and doesn’t end up choppy or with audio and video hopelessly jumbled and out of sync.

Many of the profits from the high-earning adult industry, in fact, have been poured back into hiring people and equipment necessary to build a better content delivery system. They helped bring us streaming audio and video, which means that you don’t have to wait until after you finish downloading a multi-megabyte file before you can begin to play what it contains.

Now some of the same people are serving as the vanguards in bringing porn to cell phones, expected to be a $4 billion market in 2005 with big growth in 2006. Their success will likely herald our ability to watch our favorite mainstream flicks and TV shows through the same technology very soon.

Coupled with this are initiatives that may help reduce the number of children who get access to sexually-oriented material through borrowing their parent’s credit card or – as too often happens in cyberspace: lifting someone else’s. As to the latter, understand that whole Internet chat rooms exist just to allow people – and a surprisingly high number of them, school age children, many under the age of 16 – to trade stolen credit card information. These operate much like the busy trading room on the New York Stock Exchange; the people there take their business of purloined numbers very seriously. Many younger children have learned that they can trade credit numbers with others so they are less likely to be fingered as the culprit when that number is used halfway across the country.

Because so many young people have cell phones, the adult industry needs to be able to block them from using their services. If they don’t, not only do they risk the wrath of the law in a time when the current administration has been very unfriendly to pornography, but they also stand to lose their ability to quickly process credit card transactions.

For example, when a lot of non-adults use a credit card to access services, it’s possible that a credit company, upon investigation, may reverse the charges as valid cardholders call to complain they did not buy the service. Every time a chargeback – or the reversal of a credit charge – occurs, this factors into the allowable percentage of chargebacks a company can have before they lose to process their credit cards. The theory is that lots of chargebacks imply bad business practices.

Any business – especially a virtual one where a customer can’t hand over cash – who can’t take credit cards will suffer badly. This provides ample incentive for the adult service industry to filter out kids just to keep in operation, even if good business and societal ethics fails to motivate them.

If the adult-oriented entrepreneurs can develop a much better system to keep kids out, the technology they design will likely be passed along to the mainstream cyber-marketplace where parental restrictions have been difficult to refine. Most children, without special knowledge, can often defeat Web nannyware just by guessing their parents’ supervisory password.

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