If you have watched the television or read some of the tabloids over the last few weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that the web has become the realm of the child pornographer and the paedophile.
But this isn't anything new. The reality is that the web has made the distribution and accessibility of pornography very easy, and it was the pornographers who grasped the potential for the internet to make them very rich indeed.
Big on-line retailers, like the booksellers Amazon, waited years for their first profits (if they didn't go bust long before then), but sex sites frequently earn their owners millions of hits and consequently huge profits. See the article at abcnews.go.com for some of the surprising multinationals behind the sex industry.
It isn't the first time that pornography has been the driving force behind new technology, and it certainly won't be the last. After losing billions of pounds purchasing third generation licences for mobile phones, these mobile phone companies are 'trying to tie up deals with adult content providers such as Playboy, as full colour phones capable of displaying high-resolution images become more popular'. The Guardian reports at media.guardian.co.uk that this could lead to almost £2 billion in revenue by the end of the year.
The nature of internet use can perhaps be seen from a report at cyberatlas.internet.com which lists the most commonly entered terms on search engines. First is, of course, 'sex'. Other terms include 'music', 'free' and 'MP3', reflecting the fact that millions of people use the internet to download free pirated music (to the horror of the music industry). Google's 'year-end zeitgeist' at www.google.com allows you to 'Check out the year's top gaining and declining search terms as well as the most popular brands, music, movies and women on the web as seen by Google users.'
It's a sad reflection on the internet that its development has been driven by some of the most cynical and unpleasant industries. And the media are more interested in venting their anger on a few individuals, rather than the multinationals which are exploiting the web.