Report: The Internet Really Is for Porn

Apr 4, 2012 4:00 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — A new report is calling attention to the widespread consumption of online adult entertainment, and is opening eyes with some startling claims.

It won’t come as much of a surprise to many of our readers, given the breathtaking bandwidth consumption now being reported by free tube sites offering streaming videos, but broadband and booty-shaking go hand-in-hand.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” Sebastian Anthony wrote for ExtremeTech, “that a person in possession of a fast Internet connection must be in want of some porn.”

Stating that “the Internet really is for porn,” Anthony set about illustrating the reasons for his assumption; based upon the best numbers available — a task which he notes is not the easiest to accomplish, given the typically secretive nature of the industry’s privately held companies.

Anthony compiled data from Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner to reveal that XVideos is currently the largest adult website, boasting 4.4 billion page views per month; with other adult sites, such as LiveJasmin, YouPorn, Tube8 and Pornhub all commanding vast expanses of market share, “that dwarf almost everything except the Googles and Facebooks of the Internet.”

These facts highlight porn’s global appeal, which crosses all demographics.

It’s not just a matter of page views, however, but “stickiness” — the measure of how much time a visitor spends on a website — that sets adult sites apart from non-adult sites; with Anthony comparing a 15-20 minute average porn site visit to a three-to-six minute visit on a news site as evidence of adult’s stickiness.

To put the scope of online porn’s appeal into perspective, however, requires a look at the amount of bandwidth being pushed by these top-tier adult sites, which predominantly feature large streaming video files.

Anthony uses the example of a low resolution video stream of 100kbps, which over the course of an average 15 minute visit, consumes approximately 90 megabytes. Using this figure, he deduces that XVideos’ 350 million monthly users consume somewhere near 29 petabytes of data monthly (around 50 gigabytes per second), but notes that at its peak traffic times, XVideos may burst to 1,000Gbps (1Tbps) or more.

“To put this into perspective,” Anthony explains, “There’s only about 15Tbps of connectivity between London and New York.”

Anthony states that while the amounts vary, typical adult websites contain 50 to 200 terabytes of porn and are responsible for nearly a third of all Internet traffic.

“The Internet only handles around half an Exabyte of traffic every day, which equates to around 50Tbps — in other words, a single porn site accounts for almost two percent of the Internet’s total traffic,” Anthony stated. “It’s probably not unrealistic to say that porn makes up 30 percent of the total data transferred across the Internet.”

Huge numbers indeed, but are they accurate?

Pink Visual’s Quentin Boyer notes that while the report does a pretty good job of relating the scale of some of the industry’s largest sites, the various estimates, projections and averages it offers seem to assume that most adult sites are significantly larger than they are, both in terms of traffic and content.

“On balance, I think the report is OK,” Boyer told XBIZ. “The author just doesn’t have enough information about the industry at large to come up with reliable assumptions and estimates concerning what ‘most’ sites are like, or what the ‘average’ size really is.”

For example, most video streams today run at well in excess of 100kbps, while most adult sites offer nowhere near 50 to 200 terabytes of content. Anthony’s own estimate for XVideos’ traffic may be way off, with his revised numbers placing the actual amount of data being transferred at up to 40 petabytes per month.

More accurate perhaps is the analysis of the hard- and software behind the scenes.

Anthony notes that on the infrastructure front, Redis databases and Nginx-powered web servers housed in dedicated data centers, or cloud providers such as Amazon AWS are the only ways to handle these site’s high load demands.

YouPorn, which claims to be the second largest adult website, told Anthony that it hosts more than 100TB of content, serving more than 100 million page views daily, or up to 4000 pages per second, for around 28 petabytes per month. Its system, YouPorn says, will handle up to 200 million views per day; and while originally running Perl with a MySQL backend, was upgraded in 2011 to run PHP and Redis, under Nginx, with load balancing provided by HAProxy and Varnish.

Beyond the technology that enables it, the huge popularity of tube sites, while a bane to adult content producers plagued by piracy, offers a number of “silver clouds” to those operators that can see opportunities in new markets.

According to Wasteland.com owner Colin Rowntree, one of the unintended windfalls of sponsors putting promo content on tube sites is that sponsors are no longer incurring the large cost of “feeding bandwidth to the world.”

“Since the decrease in the number of affiliates using hosted videos and galleries (a lot of them seem to have migrated to text and editorial based ways to promote their sponsors), we’ve seen a pretty pleasant decrease in bandwidth for free video hosting,” Rowntree told XBIZ. “It seems to be a nice win-win as affiliates ‘in the know’ have stopped even trying to compete with the tubes and rely more on hand crafted reviews and editorial with some photos and short trailers, whilst the large tubes are blasting out the bandwidth at a much more favorable bandwidth fee for the bulk they are purchasing.”

So it seems that today, bandwidth isn’t everything — but it is a necessary expense as well as a yardstick to measure the success of a company — a yardstick that represents a website’s potential customers.

“I’d rather have the traffic and the bandwidth bills than neither,” Boyer concluded.

Regardless of the real numbers, however, the one indisputable truth that Anthony uncovered is that “the Internet really is for porn.”

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