Before the emergence of tube sites where users upload often-pirated porn for others to stream, viewers usually bought DVDs or subscriptions to watch their favorite content. In 2005, several PayPal employees founded YouTube, which allows non-tech experts to easily upload and share videos.

The adult industry was the first to use the same technology. The shift in how people consume and create porn began two years after the founding of PornHub. Pornhub has been the king of the tubes for fifteen years. It was the eighth most visited website in the world in December of 2021, sandwiched between Walmart and Reddit, and the only adult site in the top 15.

PornHub has changed the industry by making viewing and creation more accessible, but still has a complicated relationship with performers and producers.

History of Pornhub

The first tube site was Pornhub, which didn't respond to multiple requests for comment. RedTube and YouPorn preceded it in 2006 as New York Magazine reported in a deep dive into Pornhub and the proliferation of free porn. For the first time, viewers were able to watch free porn on a massive scale, which fundamentally changed the industry.

Studios produced and distributed porn on their own websites. The Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry lobby group, said that tubes received ire from these performers and producers because they were pirating.

The first-released invention of this new era was the iPhone. People had screens that fit in their hand, but they also had cameras, which made them perfect for doing other activities with the free hand.

Why is it the household name for Pornhub if it wasn't the first tube?

The savvy dealings of the people behind the scenes could be to blame, according to a University of Toronto student.

Pornhub was created by the creators of the studio Brazzers. One founder wrote in an online forum that "content pirates will not steal it and get away with it", after PornHub launched, New York Magazine reported.

PornHub was purchased by a businessman in 2010 as part of the corporate conglomerate Manwin. Many tubes, including RedTube and YouPorn, as well as Pornhub, were taken up by Manwin/MindGeek.

Studios were suffering financially due to piracy and copyright issues, according to Stabile. MindGeek knew that they had a lot of traffic from free content, and that a percentage of those viewers would ultimately buy subscriptions to watch what wasn't uploaded to the tubes. Many studios are owned by MindGeek.

Stabile said that they are often seen as a company that destroyed the studio system.

Performers have limited options because MindGeek is a big conglomerate. Even independent producers may have to create content in tandem with what's popular on Pornhub, because that's what sells

Stabile and MacDonald didn't agree with that labeling as PornHub and its parent company have competitors. MacDonald said it was a market with few dominant players.

Cashing in (or not) in the creator boom

In recent years, the ability to monetize your own content as an independent creator or your own time as a worker has led to a boom in both SFW and NSFW markets. OnlyFans is one of the largest sites in the latter. Stabile said that Pornhub laid the groundwork for OnlyFans, which allows individual models to sell content and sell subscriptions.

Performer Valentina Bellucci said that everyone can create content with Pornhub.

Extreme success on the tube isn't seen by everyone. Bellucci believes that Pornhub is more of a promotional tool than a moneymaker. There is a lot of competition from other models with the ability to upload.

For the average sex worker, PornHub is not the ideal, according to performer Brie Nightwood. Nightwood says Unlocked XX is more sex worker-friendly than OnlyFans due to fewer restrictions on content.

Bellucci said she makes more money from videos on XVideos, another tube site, but she will not stop uploading on Pornhub anytime soon because of the exposure.

Nightwood said that some models are on Pornhub for exposure. She has never uploaded to Pornhub because of child abuse sex material on the platform. According to a report by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), MindGeek had over a thousand reports of illegal material in 2020. Facebook had over 20 million reports.

The New York Times published an opinion piece about CSAM. Nightwood acknowledged that the platform took down illegal content and made attempts to be safer, but she did not want to join it at that point. After the piece was published, PornHub banned non-verified content and removed millions of videos.

She said that the money is better monetized via OnlyFans.

Pornhub's impact on content

Pornhub changed the way people entered and worked in the industry.

The structure of oligopolies are not unique to porn. If the user base wants to keep seeing, then the subscription service model is what they want.

A few minutes long, say five to seven minutes, with the inclusion of several sexual acts, is the type of video that succeeds on Pornhub. Anyone who has browsed the site can tell the look and feel of a popular Pornhub upload, with well-lit shots and crisp audio.

MacDonald said that all of those things are under the influence of the big porn sites.

While the ability to create porn has become more streamlined thanks to PornHub and OnlyFans, there is still stigma in the profession due to the fact that sexual content is not allowed on tech companies and credit card companies. She explained that people talk about Pornhub in a way that is sanitized.

The conversation has been driven by Pornhub the last 15 years. No one can speak to the next 15.

Stabile said that he would never discount them because they are well capitalized and creative.