In 2009 17.8% of All Internet Traffic was ‘Porn’

Warning—Don’t Scroll Down at Work: This post contains two (and possibly three depending on your particular related work place policies) in-context images that would likely be considered improper for viewing in the workplace.

Long post warning: Long-ish but darned interesting—I thought so anyway.

According to Cisco Systems about 10.942 exabytes of data was transferred around the public Internet in 2009. Just so it makes more sense 10.942 exabytes is 10.942 million terabytes. There, does that make it easier to comprehend (*grin*)? Not really? How about 10.942E18 bytes. Still not helping? Okay … with all the zeros it is: 10,942,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

If my calculations are correct this works out to 632 gigabytes of data being transferred around the Internet every second. Is that even possible? Surely not! Oh well, Cisco seem to think so. If you want to read some other mind blowing forecasts about Internet traffic that mentions zettabytes of data (1.0E21) then see this White Paper report at the Cisco Web site.

PornPie2009 But—getting back to the focus of my post—using one of the more conservative estimates a staggering 1.95 million terabytes of this data, or 17.8 percent, was sexual porn. It is important to note that the amount of sexual porn moving around the Internet can only be estimated. It cannot be measured as there is no way of actually telling which Internet traffic is porn and which is not. Monitoring known porn Web sites is pointless as the vast bulk of porn travelling the Internet does not originate from these sites.

The estimated 1.95 exabytes is porn transmitted over the Internet via any of the protocols or data formats that make up the Internet including: NNTP newsfeeds; Web site browsing and downloads; e-mail exchanges (attachments); Youtube videos; P2P clients; Torrents; direct FTP transfers including direct server downloads; picture sharing sites; private and public ‘forum’ sites; http chat (Web chat); and IRC chat; etc.

If we were to assume that 60 percent of this transmitted sexual porn was video and 40 percent was pictures then that is 1.17E18 bytes of video and 7.8E17 bytes of pictures.

If we were to further assume that the average size of each video was 100MB and the average size of each picture was 200KB—which I think are reasonably useful averages to pick (especially as I picked them *grin*)—then this would work out to:

  • 1.17E10 videos transferred (11,700,000,000); as well as
  • 7.8E12 pictures transferred (7,800,000,000,000).

These are *HUGE* numbers—even if it is data transmitted over a whole year.

Taking it a little further, in 2009 there were 1.7 billion Internet users in the world and about 60 percent are men and 40 percent are woman. This means that about one billion are men. Assuming men consume the bulk of porn (a relatively safe assumption) then, if every male Internet user collected an equal amount of porn and they saved it, each one would have something like 11.47 videos and 7,647 pictures stored away on their computer (or external hard disk or thumb drives or mobile phone or media player or somewhere).

This is obviously not the case because much of the Internet porn that is viewed is transient and is not saved.

KaleyTopSearch Porn? What-da-ya-mean porn? What porn? Where?

You might have noticed that I keep writing porn in italics. I am doing this because—for different groups of people—porn is not porn, is not porn, is not porn (sic). By this I mean that something that is porn for one group of people is not considered porn by another group.

Following are the five general groupings of Internet porn includes in the 31 percent with a bit of an explanation about each.

Candy Porn = 24%. Candy porn, or ‘eye candy’, would not be considered as porn by most people I know. Eye candy is basically just pictures of hot girls that guys find sexually desirable. Eye candy girls still have clothes covering their most exciting bits even though they might be wearing it in a highly sexually suggestive manner.

Such pictures could generally be found interspersed through most women’s magazines (Elle, Cosmo, Cleo, etc.,) or quality men’s magazines (GQ, Maxim, FHM, etc.,), and possibly—these days—even the daily newspaper.

A typical example of eye candy is shown above featuring Kaley Cuoco who plays Penny in “The Big Bang Theory” television series (Kaley made it into the Top 20 searched for babes in 2009).

As tame as it seems this type of eye candy is classified as porn under the general definition; in that males (and a tiny percentage of females) search it out and use it for the purposes of sexual gratification—which makes it porn.

SextingExample Sexting = 9%. This category of porn only started to register around mid-2005. The definitions for sexting vary but basically this is teenage girls—and to a much lesser degree, teenage boys—providing pictures and videos of themselves in various states of undress for the sexual excitement of whomever they are sharing them with; often in real-time (i.e., as they are doing it).

The pictures and videos are most often taken by the girls (and boys) themselves using embedded cameras in mobile phones, Web cams, or other mobile media devices.

Sexting is typically done ‘live’ over chat, via mobile/cell phones, or through forums; but these ‘live’ transmissions are often saved by the receiver and then shared. Sharing might be done through Youtube, Web sites, e-mailing, or P2P sharing (torrents).

Shown at right is a randomly selected typical example taken from one of the many Web sites that put together collections of these sexting pictures. This is from the March 2009 collection at WBW (What Boys Want) and I tried to make sure I picked a girl who looked like she was well over 16. I have also painted out the girl’s face in order to protect her identity because it is highly likely that when she took this picture and sent it to whomever she took it for she did not expect it to end up on a public Web site like WBW.

TypicalSoftPorn Soft Porn = 41%. This is the single largest category of transmitted Internet porn. As for eye candy, this is porn that about two thirds of the population (in the Western World) would most likely not really consider to be porn.

Soft porn or ‘girlie’ porn is porn that would generally not upset your wife or girlfriend too much if she came across it on your computer, mobile phone, media player, or thumb drive (that you accidently left laying around).

Mostly it is naked ladies exposing their primary sexual attractor (their breasts) with some bum and leg typically thrown in.

The randomly selected picture at right (found using Google images) is a fairly typical example of soft porn.

Hard Porn = 18%. Hard porn is naughtier than soft porn and is hard to describe in a sentence. On seeing it almost everyone would agree that hard porn is actually porn. Basically it fits between soft porn and illegal porn and generally includes some act of sex taking place—whether it be self-stimulation involving ‘toys’ or involve male and female participants.

If you had a collection of hard porn then you probably would not want your wife or girlfriend finding it—however, so it seems, very few men (or women) tend to save or collect hard porn. Hard porn tends to be viewed transiently so the only indication left on the computer will be the browsing history (assuming a browser was used and assuming the browser history was not cleaned).

Illegal Porn = 8%. Illegal porn is porn for which you could be arrested and go to jail (or worse in some countries) if it were found on your computer or other storage devices that you own.

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So! That’s why your pirated downloads of movies and TV series are taking so darn long to download! It’s all those people clogging up the Internet bandwidth with porn.

Interestingly the percentage of overall Internet traffic consumed by sexual porn in 2010 is expected to drop. This is not so much because the amount being transmitted will go down but because the amount of other Internet traffic is expected to increase significantly; especially the downloading of movies and TV shows as this becomes more mainstream.

I would just note again that the 17.8 percent estimate used in this post is one of the more conservative estimates around and is from W3. It is also an estimate that I like, in that it seems about right. Other estimates you will find on the Web go up as high as 50 percent, but I for one seriously doubt such figures. Such numbers might have been close to the mark back in the mid-80s when it used to be joked that the only use of the Internet was for porn.