Playing the Porn Card

UPDATE – JANUARY 30th:

First, a comment from my friend Tim Kern made me realize that if you didn’t look at the image created by Lee Brimelow, or read the Wired article, you may draw the wrong impression by the way I described this issue. The image was a collection of screenshots, which included CNN, Disney, Aviary, and a host of others. The porn site was just one of these. Sorry if I gave off the impression that Adobe was simply telling people they wouldn’t be able to use porn. The caption for the image was:

“Millions of websites use Flash. Get used to the blue logos.”

Second, Lee has updated the original image removing the porn site image. It now is simply a black box that says, “Screenshot Removed. Apologies if it offended anyone.”

It should be noted that the original image was pixelatated in the way that any news outlet would have when reporting on this story. The fun part is that now anyone who didn’t see the original image will be able to substitute their own idea of what might have offended people, which may be worse than the original.

At this time the Wired article still has their screengrab of the image.

My original thoughts are below.
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In Adobe Plays the Porn Card Brian X. Chen of Wired makes the point that the Flash-mongers seem a bit desperate for mentioning that some porn won’t be available on the iPad.

Though porn is certainly relevant to many people’s web experiences, that’s kind of a desperate move. My friend Matt Drance, Apple’s former iPhone evangelist, summed up what this means on Twitter: “Adobe has resorted to playing the porn card. It’s over.”

Both Drance and Chen seem to treat Adobe’s broaching of this subject with a fair amount of ridicule, as low-key as it may be. I’ve seen this in comments sections a lot recently. The use of tech for porn is at once something everyone understands occurs, but almost everyone distances themselves from as an actual topic when it comes to the iPad. Some have gone so far as to say, “One of these is a porn site. Like THAT’S going to get Apple to reconsider Flash support.”

Two things about this:

First of all, I’m not sure what the environment was like where Lee Brimelow (who came up with the image that sparked Chen’s article) grew up, but there’s sort of a protocol that most folks learn in junior high. Using technology for porn is very much the same as talking about masturbation, perhaps because the two are so closely linked. If you’re hanging out with a group of friends (or in this case, the Internet) you can assume that they’re all aware of it. You do not, however, make specific reference to it. You don’t say that you do it, you don’t imply that they do it. You just leave the subject alone.

Honestly, it IS a buying concern. The thing is, people don’t need Adobe bringing it up. You really don’t need your software company to say, “By the way, it’s going to take away that porn you enjoy!” It’s like (I assume) your Dad buying you porn. If you find it hidden somewhere in the house, fair game, but if he actually goes out of his way to tell you where it is, that’s a bit creepy.

People are already talking about porn when they talk about, “Flash Movie Players.” It’s like how you say “stomach problem” instead of “poop issue.” I don’t think the fact they used this means the “war” is “over,” I just think Adobe overstepped a bit addressing an issue that was in the back of everyone’s mind. Bad judgement and desperation aren’t necessarily the same thing. They simply wrongfully assumed that no one had considered this issue.

Secondly, Apple actually doesn’t have much to worry about. Here’s why. People have their favorite porn sites, I assume. Some of these run Flash, and the people won’t get to see them. Here’s the issue. Unless there’s a huge swing in the culture, they won’t admit that that’s why they aren’t buying an iPad. They’ll couch it in terms of “lack of Flash support,” and they’ll hold off, perhaps. Still, people are like porn MacGuyvers. Give them a piece of technology and they’ll cobble together a way to get porn on it.

Take the iPhone. It’s got the same limitations, and I’m sure there are ways to get porn on it. (Not that I’d know myself.) I’m sure folks will discover Google image search with the safe filter off, mobile versions of certain porn sites, or YouTube videos that fit a particular fetish that doesn’t violate their rules. Or something like that.

Still, though, it won’t be their *favorite* porn site, and that might make a difference, at least at first. There may be some loyalty to Flash-reliant sites, however short-lived, that may affect someone’s decision to buy an iPad.

Even though no one *should* be talking about it, it is an issue that may matter to some people. I can see why it may have been brought up, however ill-advised that decision may have been.

To play the porn card may be seen as desperate, is definitely not cool playground etiquette, and could be extremely off-putting to people with a demure public persona.

To say no one has a stake in the issue behind it, however, is (at best) disingenuous.

Also, please don’t comment with protestations that you never use the Internet for porn. I’m just going to follow my own advice and make a blanket statement that I assume NONE of you do. I’m obviously talking about other people. This is a case where your silence is appreciated, and much more believable.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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One Response to Playing the Porn Card

  1. Tim Kern says:

    I’ve had more trouble trying to look at art websites than finding non-flash porn. Maybe one day Adobe will realize that the digital world is more than just porn. I don’t need someone else deciding what I should or shouldn’t look at…

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