How pornography is putting crypto on the verge of mass market adoption

Friday, 25 May 2018
Melbourne, Australia
By Sam Volkering

  • Marilyn to Marks: How adult industries change tech
  • Again, porn helps win the war
  • Not format wars – financial wars

Go back through the history of tech. In doing so you’ll uncover an interesting phenomena.

You see that certain kinds of consumer tech usually reach a crossroads. And that in most cases there’s one determining factor in the success or failure of that tech.

Gutenberg invented the printing press. And initially it was to print bibles. People wanted bibles. But the potential of the printing press didn’t really catch the mass market.

That is until people realised you could print more than biblical text. You could also print erotic pictures.

This would just be the start of the centuries-long impact of porn, technology and the mass market…

First, the markets.


Overnight the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 75.05 points, or 0.30%.

The S&P 500 fell 5.53 points, or 0.2%.

In Europe the Euro Stoxx 50 index finished down 20.06 points, or 0.57%. Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 lost 0.92%, and Germany’s DAX fell 121.75 points, or 0.94%.

In Asian markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 is up 20.19 points, or 0.09%. China’s CSI 300 is down 0.087%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 is down 8.7 points, or 0.15%.

On the commodities markets, West Texas Intermediate crude oil is US$70.61 per barrel. Brent crude is US$78.74 per barrel.

Gold is trading for US$1,302.9 (AU$1,722.05) per troy ounce. Silver is US$16.71 (AU$22.09) per troy ounce.

One bitcoin is worth US$ 7,622.87.

The Aussie dollar is worth 0.75.67 US cents.

Marilyn to Marks: How adult industries change tech

In the 1500s and 1600s there was a movement of erotic image producers using the printing press.

A 1994 article from The New York Times explains,

Literary historians have credited these early pornographers with helping to develop techniques — dialogue, scene-setting, the epistolary format — that eventually led to the novel, a genre quickly adopted for pornography.

Then in the early parts of the 20th century half tone printers changed the publishing world again. All of sudden it was easy to replicate images easily and en mass in black and white.

But again this didn’t really capture the attention of the mass market. Then the pornography industry switched on to this opportunity.

This saw the explosion of mass-market erotic imagery. And eventually led to advancements in photography technology as business realised the huge public demand for porn.

In 1953 the debut of a risqué magazine hit the world. Playboy’s first issue in December 1953 featured Hollywood movie star, Marilyn Monroe. Again this changed the publishing industry and saw the extrapolation and development of printing and distribution.

Then in 1958 in the UK, Harrison Marks began to use the nascent 8mm film in a new way. Marks was a ‘glamour’ photographer. He would photograph models in states of undress and toplessness.

He’s widely credited as taking this kind of photography from the ‘underground’ to the pages of national newspapers (such as the infamous Page 3 girls).

Eastman Kodak had developed the 8mm standard years earlier. But its usage hadn’t really caught on.

But Marks now decided to use 8mm standard film to record his models, not just photograph them. These became known as ‘Glamour Home Movies’. It helped the 8mm format explode into the mass market.

Soon enough there was a boom in the 8mm standard. And Kodak quickly realised this was another opportunity. They moved quickly to advance the Super 8 format.

Super 8 was quick and easy to use. Importantly it was readily accessible and cheap. It became the industry standard for pornography movies. With the porn industry adopting Super 8 it fast became one of the great successes from Kodak.

Moving forward into the 70s there were two main types of home viewing technology. Sony had developed a format they called Betamax. Meanwhile JVC had released a format they called VHS.

Again, these formats were easily accessible and of high quality (at the time). And they would compete head to head throughout the late 70s for dominance.

But there would be only one winner in this battle. And as we all know the dominant form was VHS. But why? Betamax was of high quality. It was an outstanding format.

Porn wasn’t the sole reason for VHS supremacy. After all, there was a significant price difference between the formats. While Betamax was better quality, it was almost three times more expensive.

But it is also true that Sony refused to licence their technology to pornography companies. Quite simply they took a puritan view of their tech. And it certainly didn’t help.

At the time porn was hard to come by. And home movies were taking off. The accessibility of home video recorders was better than ever. Also porn producers could record and distribute films on VHS.

The New York Times wrote,

In 1978 and 1979, when fewer than 1 percent of American homes had VCR’s and the major movie studios were reluctant to try the new technology, more than 75 percent of the videocassettes sold were pornographic.

VHS won, and porn helped it on its journey.

Again, porn helps win the war

Then in the mid-2000s, Sony once again tried their hand with a new format, Blu-ray. But as Toshiba didn’t want Sony to take the whole market, they developed a rival HD-DVD format.

The real stealth here was that Sony shipped every PlayStation 3 with Blu-ray compatibility. This was significant as the porn industry decided they could have an ‘instant home audience’ by adopting the Blu-ray format.

An article in Macworld from 2006 quotes ‘Joone’, founder of Digital Playground, which was one of the world’s biggest porn studios:

‘”PlayStation 3 is going to be the Trojan horse that will get a lot of numbers into the home theatre systems — the living rooms,” said Joone, who is also a movie director. “Technology-wise we’ve chosen Blu-ray, which doesn’t mean we won’t support both formats … but as far as having really cool technology and a lot of storage for future proof, Blu-ray is a good format.”

Then…the internet.

The internet opened up a world of possibility. A new way to connect, interact, learn…and find pornography.

In 2015 there were more than 2 billion web searches for porn. Every month porn sites bring more visitors than Amazon, Netflix and Twitter combined. 30 percent of all internet content is pornography.

The internet is porn. Porn is the internet. And it’s also helped to advance other new technologies like online payments and more recently…cryptocurrency.

You see one of the features of certain cryptocurrency is anonymity and privacy. You can use them as a method of payment in a network. But you don’t have to give away your identity.

These features become crucial for people who want to access porn, but don’t want it showing up on their bank statements.

And so again the porn industry is leading the way with the adoption of new tech. In this case the use of crypto payments to access their content. And it has the potential to once again bring a nascent technology to the mass market.

This was recently solidified when PornHub added the cryptocurrency, Verge (XVG) as a payment method.

PornHub has an average of 81 million visitors per day. Per year it’s over 28 billion visits. It also has more than 20 million registered users. For point of comparison Netflix has around 125 million registered users.

Not format wars – financial wars

PornHub is one of the first real mass-market partnerships between an online business and a cryptocurrency. Perhaps a defining moment for crypto and mass-market appeal.

Now of course Verge as a crypto has its issues. And there will be plenty of people who oppose even the idea of PornHub. But you cannot deny the importance of porn in society.

But this essay isn’t about people’s stance on porn. It’s about the fact that billions of people access, view and pay for porn. It’s a legitimate industry with an estimated value of around $97 billion.

And now there’s this new, privacy focused payment method available in front of them. Cryptocurrency will be new and interesting to PornHub’s 20 million users and 81 million daily visitors.

Even if they don’t use it, they will now know about it. And the fact PornHub is accepting it pushes the idea of crypto from the fringes far, far closer to the mainstream.

The track record of the porn industry pushing new technology is astounding. And more often than not they pick the right winner. Or they influence the market towards the right winner.

Porn is culturally significant. And it’s starting to show again it can shape the technology future of the mass-market. Except this time not through formats.

This time, it’s through crypto.