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Early adopter pilotfish: pornographers vs. SEOs

Pornographers are apocryphally given credit for leading tech early adoption. I wondered if this was actually true. We know about Beta vs. VHS and all that. But it turns out it goes all the way back to the daguerreotypes and early photography. Crazy:

In 1841, William Fox Talbot patented the calotype process, the first negative-positive process, making possible multiple copies [of photographs]. This invention permitted an almost limitless number of prints to be produced from a glass negative. Also, the reduction in exposure time made a true mass market for pornographic pictures possible. The technology was immediately employed to reproduce nude portraits. Paris soon became the centre of this trade. In 1848 only thirteen photography studios existed in Paris; by 1860, there were over 400. Most of them profited by selling illicit pornography to the masses who could now afford it. The pictures were also sold near train stations, by traveling salesmen and women in the streets who hid them under their dresses.
    -- wikipedia

But in search and traffic I think it's not pornographers, but the SEO industry that deserves the credit.

On one hand, the relevance issues introduced by spam sort of define the entire environment that both search and social media exist within. It's not a matter of just bolting a spam filter onto your product once it's done, how to be crap-resistant and be able to greyscale score content across the entire spectrum needs to be core to your software.

Beyond that, however, SEO's often pay more detailed and critical attention to the web industry than most of the industry analysts, who simply eat press releases and comment on them. SEOs are continually probing for weakness and insight into the evolving global online traffic market.

Some SEOs I follow:

SEO by the Sea has been methodically going through the patent filings for Google, Yahoo, Flickr, Ask, Technorati, etc. looking for insight into their ranking and anti-spam methologies. Cool. :-)

SEOmoz has a nice how-to guide for getting links into WikiPedia.

Another gem from SEOmoz: "Every so often, one of our employees will roll into the office and announce, 'I'm going to get on Digg today.'" How do they do that? sock puppets, amazon's mechanical turk, or just plain old linkbait?

I find this stuff hilarious but also insightful. If you're designing social media systems, you should be keeping an eye on the $2B industry that sells links from your site to their clients.



Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Early adopter pilotfish: pornographers vs. SEOs:

» SEOs: the New Pornographers of the Web from Coding Horror
There's something about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that I find highly distasteful. I've never quite been able to put my finger on it, until I read Rich Skrenta's pornographers vs. SEOs. It's all clear to me now. SEOs are... [Read More]

Comments (3)


Thanks, Rich.

It's fascinating to see some of the assumptions made in many of the patent filings that come out of places like Mountain View or Sunnyvale or Redmond.

As someone who entered the web first by being involved in ecommerce before Google and Altavista showed up, I've viewed the search engines as forces upon the web that have grown to hold a great deal of power over how people communicate with each other, regardless of whether their intent is commercial or just communicating with each other.

I see it as my professional responsibility to pay as much attention as possible.


Will it be porn that finally bootstraps IPv6?:

We all know the SEO Gods have the power but we can't totally dismiss the fact that the Porn Lords have made a huge mark in the search and traffic techniques that exist today, but I do have to agree with you in questioning whether they were the true early adopters.

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