Abstract: Pornography has played a crucial, albeit often neglected role in the development of Web solutions and e-commerce. Gaming and online shopping, for example, picked up towards the end of the 1990s while pornography remained, virtually from the launch of the first graphic browsers, one of the few forms of content that users were willing to pay for. Consequently, safe credit card processing systems, streaming video technologies, hosting services, as well as practices such as banner advertisement and pop-ups, were first developed for the needs of, and used on porn sites. Pornographic continues to quickly migrate to new media platforms and formats, yet its position is crucially different in the context of social media than it was in the Web cultures of the 1990s. The role of porn as a driving force in dot.com enterprise has clearly passed. Pornographic content is actively weeded out from most social media platforms and targeted advertising while broad diagnoses on the pornification of media culture continue to abound. According to these, pornographic aesthetics have grown ubiquitous enough to infiltrate diverse visual practices from social media profiles to selfies.
This chapter examines the development of web pornography from homegrown enterprises of the early 1990s to the increasing visibility of sexual subcultures and the presence of established studios and companies on online platforms, the shift from gonzo and reality pornography to the ubiquity of amateur productions and the centralization of porn distribution on video aggregator sites, notably many of which are run by the same company. Addressing independent, amateur and commercial enterprises as well as the complexities and paradoxes that such categorizations involve, the article explains how Web technologies and the centrality of search functions in particular have affected the development and uses of pornographic content, what kinds of sexual taste cultures have emerged, how the public visibility of pornography as a media genre has been altered in the course of its online distribution, as well as how all this connects to media policy and practices of regulation. All this necessitates understanding the production of web pornography, as well as the notion of the porn industry that it involves, as characterized by inner distinctions and constant fragmentation.