Currently I’m doing research on scalability and distributed architectures, I asked myself where this trend might has begun. Long story short: The porn industry is the root of all „evil“. To be more precise: pr0n websites are always high-traffic destinations, which adapt new concepts and paradigms early.
In the early years
Back in the mid-90s the porn industry targeted the online market, but the majority of their cash came from selling magazines and video tapes. The average bandwith was pretty slow and really expensive. So, porn websites were limited to display small images of some nude only. But highspeed internet connections did change this era completely.
Big boobs in motion
Most porn websites host an impressive amount of video data, ready to be streamed. Due to the availability of high definition content the traffic increased by a magnitude.
Some websites come down serving „static“ webpages only. Delivering video on demand with up to 300k requests per second is a killer task.
Eric Pickup, lead dev at Youporn, has talked about their application stack and the great switch from perl and a conventional mysql backend to PHP (wtf?) and redis, to increase the throughput of their website. He provides also more in detail statistics and benchmarks.
But there are some more technological achievements
Not only scalability and distributed systems are things we can respect as benefits from this industry. They were also faced with other problems that are crucial
As ExtremeTech discribes, infrastructure is really import if your company is dealing with video streaming. Delivering text over the network is relatively cheap. You can kill your connections really fast and you don’t have (but you should) to deal with long-lasting connections or blocking I/O. Furthermore, you have to provide an intelligent storage engine, typically a storage area network. And last but not least, video streaming is cpu-intensive, so your servers have to be optimized to handle this load.
To make money with online content, you have to provide the technology to charge your user in a appropriate way. In the beginning of porn websites no good solutions existed. To close this gap different providers developed interfaces to charge the website users instantly and video on demand satifys it’s promise of direct entertainment.
Lots of porn websites have to handle a huge amount of requests and therefore developing new technolgies like other global player such as Google, Amazon or Facebook. Some points not mentioned (e.g. web application security) are also really important, but it’s not neccessary to evaluate these whitin this context, because all websites are dealing with attackers and malicious software.
Just one more thing: How do you know, that your software scales really good? It’s used by the porn industry 😉