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    The fact that porn will never die is reassuring for job stability as well!

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that Pornhub is owned by MindGeek, which at one pointed tried aquiring every single porn tube out there, in order to have a monopoly on porn. Nowadays, they don’t really seem to be any different than any other established startup out there. (Except, I guess, they probably do actually make a profit, instead of sustaining themselves on venture capital alone.)

    It is said that XVideos was the site that broke their plans, where, according to Wikipedia and The Economist, the owner refused to consider the idea of selling it, saying, “Sorry, I have to go and play Diablo II”.

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      We actually don’t use placeholders when we are developing the sites!

      Disappointed that they didn’t ask about what it’s like to be exposed to these images and videos at work all day every day, or what effect that has on the workplace and on your personal life. To me those are much more interesting questions than what JS framework they use or what browsers they support.

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        Look up the Reddit AMA’s for Pornhub. They seemed like the kind of people who weren’t bothered by much. Open-minded and fun personalities.

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        In as far as end product, sharing that you work on adult sites may not be the same as working at a local web agency.

        I’ve read in another interview (that I wish I could find) that often times a holding company relationship exists for these sites which has a potential side benefit: in this case you say you work for MindGeek.

        Go to their website - SFW and it looks like any other tech site, safe to share with your prudish family or to get your resume past HR without too many questions.

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          I’m a bit disappointed that the interviewer didn’t mention a single question regarding addiction or any ethical dimension. It’s kind of been assumed that not liking pornography is just a conservative, right-wing thing, but I don’t think that’s correct. I personally perceive it to be pushing harmful stereotypes (both as in what women should look like, or how intimacy should look like), and then there’s the problem with trafficking, and never knowing what’s actually going on behind the scenes. Chomsky says it well.

          Setting aside things like these, which should be enough to say something isn’t right, but knowing the digital world (where creating addictions has become a common and often even necessary business model) reading

          you have to be clever to innovate at the bleeding edge of the web.

          makes me somewhat uneasy. Especially a front end developer should have to think about these questions. They are the ones tasked with creating “seamless experiences”, ultimately, disregarding the influence it has on people’s daily and personal life’s. I don’t think the interviewer should have just glossed over this. YouTube has hateful or harmful videos, but their raison d’être isn’t hosting them. PornHub will have it a bit harder that hosting and spreading pornography isn’t a big part of what they are.

          From the technical perspective it’s somewhat interesting, I guess. It’s about the problems of high-demand video streaming, probably above the level of most other video sites, but still way below sites like YouTube. That’s like having an interview with a slaveholder on what kind of whips they have found to have the best quality CIA agent on what the best strategies are to manipulate a foreign election.

          Edit: Rewrote a few sentences to avoid confusion, and replaced my analogy with a different one.

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            I’m a bit disappointed that the interviewer didn’t mention a single question regarding addiction or any ethical dimension.

            Porn has been around a really long time. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing new to be discovered or discussed almost anywhere on earth on the topic, much less here.

            Like, the human race has brute-forced about every part of that solution space we can. There is not a dirty thought we can have that hasn’t occurred to scores of other people at one point in history or another–of this I’m certain.

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              Porn has been around a really long time.

              Not in the way it is now, as an endless torrent on demand. Modern porn has demonstrably changed society in ways that ancient porn did not. For example, women now believe that pubic hair is unclean and as a result of excessive pubic hair removal are getting health problems that pubic hair can prevent.

              Also, just being around forever does not categorise something as innocuous or beneficial.

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                Hairstyles have been coming and going in fads ever since we left the trees and discovered hair can be cut and washed. Having this apply also to pubic hair is not exactly a huge change.

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                  As the article notes, gynecologists disagree, but what do they know, I guess.

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                Like comparing chewing coca leaves to mainlining cocaine.

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                  Quantity acquires a quality of its own, you know. Not to mention that quality is altogether different as well: 4K video isn’t the same as a blurry black and white photo. There’s a strange blindness to this effect in the tech industry, whether it comes to social media, endless tsunami of content on Netflix, or indeed porn. Much like Facebook’s idea that more communication is unconditionally better has backfired spectacularly, maybe it’s the same with porn. And then of course there’s also all the engineered “engagement” in all these areas. Don’t be so quick to say it’s all totally harmless.

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                    Well-put.

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                    I’m a bit disappointed that the interviewer didn’t mention a single question regarding addiction or any ethical dimension.

                    The audience is web developers wanting to read something interesting about web development at a big company. They also want most of them to enjoy the article. Talking about the damage they might be doing doesn’t serve either purpose. Most would’ve just clicked the little X or otherwise moved on.

                    There’s been a lot of good writing on that subject for anyone looking for it. The key words are easy to guess.

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                      You’re kinda circling back to the same point. Yes, talking about ethical implications of our jobs is hard, and uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. Of course nost people don’t want to do it, off course most people don’t want to read about it. But it’s our responsibility to talk and to read about those things. “I don’t like doing it” is not a valid excuse for not doing something it’s your responsibility to do.

                      That said, the comparison with slavery is a bit out of place, imo.

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                        You’re doing that trick many people do here where it becomes all or nothing in every post, forum, etc. The stress of introspecting on these topics make many people do it at certain times and read relaxing content at other times. They’re fine splitting it up. Dare I’d say most people prefer that based on that simply being most popular way content is done online.

                        Then, other people think they should be mentally engaged on these topics at all times in all articles, forums, etc due to their importance. They also falsely accuse people of not caring about social responsibilities if they don’t discuss them in every article where they might come into play. You must be in that group. Author of the original post and their audience is not. Hence, the separation of concerns that lets readers relax just focusing about web tech before optionally engaging with hard realities of life at another time in another article.

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                        This isn’t a “what if my open source library was used by some military”-kind of question, I think that there is a much stronger connection between the two. Front end design is related to user behaviour, and I still consider this relation to be a technical question (UI design, user protection, setting up incentives, …).

                        If the interviewer had asked these questions, and the interviewee had chosen not to comment, that would have been something, but the article currently just brushes it away affront by saying “ Regardless of your stance on pornography, …”.

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                          I’m a bit disappointed that the interviewer didn’t mention a single question regarding addiction or any ethical dimension

                          A tech-related, Lobsters-worthy discussion of the topic would focus on how they collected user behavior, analyzed it, measured whether they were reaching their goals, strategized for how to achieve them, and specific methods of influence with associated payoffs. It would actually be more Barnacles-like since marketing is behind a lot of that. These technical and marketing techniques are politically-neutral in that they are used by many companies to measure and advance a wide range of goals, including pornography consumption. They could be discussed free-standing with little drama if the focus was really on the technology.

                          You were doing the opposite. That quote is an ethical question, even says so, where you have political views about pornography consumption, you wanted theirs explored, and you might have had some goal to be achieved with that. The emotional language in the rest of your post further suggested this wasn’t about rational analysis of a technology stack. You also didn’t care what the writer or any of their readers thought about that. So, I countered representing the majority of people who just wanted to read about a web stack. A mix that either doesn’t care about ethics of porn or does with it being a depressing topic they want to handle at another time.

                          I was on 2nd cup of coffee when you wanted me to be thinking about lives being destroyed instead of reading peaceful and interesting things easier to wake up to. Woke up faster in a different way. Oh well. Now, I’m off this drama to find a Thursday submission in my pile.

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                            A tech-related, Lobsters-worthy discussion of the topic would focus on how they collected user behavior, analyzed it, measured whether they were reaching their goals, strategized for how to achieve them, and specific methods of influence with associated payoffs.

                            I think these kinds of things were missing from the article. I know this isn’t the place to discuss pornography, and I try not to go into it in the comments. What I just brought up was a disappointment in the style and focus of the interview, and it being one-sided.

                            The emotional language in the rest of your post further suggested this wasn’t about rational analysis of a technology stack.

                            Well I do think it’s important, so I apologize for being a tad emotional. But other than what I wrote, I don’t have anything else to contribute. I neither run nor plan to run a streaming site, so I end up not having too strong opinions on what is being used in the backend stack ^^.

                            A mix that either doesn’t care about ethics of porn or does with it being a depressing topic they want to handle at another time.

                            I understand that, that’s why I prefixed my top comment with what you quoted. I furthermore feel obligated to apologise if anyone had to go through any inconvenience thinking about the “ethics of porn” because of my comment, I guess? No but seriously, bringing up a concern like this, which I explicitly tried to link back to a technical question, should be ok.

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                              “I furthermore feel obligated to apologise if anyone had to go through any inconvenience thinking about the “ethics of porn” because of my comment, I guess? No but seriously, bringing up a concern like this, which I explicitly tried to link back to a technical question, should be ok.”

                              There’s quite a few people here that are OK with it. I’m not deciding that for anyone. I just had to remind you that caring people who want a break in some places exist and that you do more good by addressing the porn problem where it’s at. I appreciate you at least considering the effect on us.

                              “I neither run nor plan to run a streaming site”

                              The main problem is consumer side where there’s mass demand following by all types of supply and clever ways to keep people hooked. You can’t beat that since they straight-up want it. What you might do is work on profiles for porn sites with tools such as NoScript that make them usable without the revenue-generating ads. Then, lots of people push for their use. If there’s any uptake, they get a temporary hit in their wallet but maybe an offset with ad-free Premium. I’m not sure the effectiveness. I just know they’re an ad model with tools existing to attack that.

                              Griping about it on technical sites won’t change anything because… most viewers aren’t on technical sites and those that are rarely changed. So, it’s just noise. Gotta work on porn laws, labor protections for those involved, ethical standards in industry itself, ad blocking, etc.

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                        If you would like to discuss the ethical aspects go to a different forum. I would rrecommend the community around Thaddeus Russell’s podcast for a critical and reasoned take from people that actually interact with sex workers https://www.thaddeusrussell.com/podcast/2

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                          I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but I’m not here to discuss the ethical aspects, not am I in a position to be able to. My comments are related to the interviewer and his choice of questions.

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                            Your gave opinions, stated as scare-hints without support:

                            “then there’s the problem with trafficking,”

                            “which should be enough to say something isn’t right,”

                            … and then based upon the now well-built pretext that porn “isn’t right” (and is therefore ethically ‘wrong’) - you commented on what the interviewer should have done - i.e. they should have had the same opinions and conceptions as yourself - and they should have turned the interview into one about ethics.

                            The interview was interesting to read, because of the info about the tech. As bsima says, please take ethical discussion elsewhere.

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                              As you said, I prefixed the controversial parts by saying that it was my opinion. But I don’t think that the interviewer must have shared my views. The point I was raising was that I thought it wasn’t appropriate for the interview to just ignore a quite relevant topic, since this was about PornHub specifically, not their parent company.

                              IMO, a just final question like

                              “What are you doing to enforce age restrictions?”

                              or

                              “Due to recent reports, do you think that doing something against pornography addiction among younger generations can be tackled technically or does it need more (social) effort?”

                              would have been more than enough, as to just show this is being considered. I’m not a journalist, so I don’t know how these questions could be phrased better, but I hope you do get my point.

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                              I’m not here to discuss the ethical aspects

                              …and yet, it’s the ethical aspects that you brought up.

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                                Looking at this thread, I didn’t respond to people who started talking about the harmfulness of pornography or the lack thereof. This even though I would like to – yet I understand that it is off topic. In fact most of this sub-thread has been more about the meta-discussion.

                                All I can say is that I will be more careful not be too provoke these kinds of discussions in the future. I was thinking critically a lot about the topic the last few months, so my comment might not have been as neutral as some might have wished.

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                            That’s like asking an interview with a slaveholder on what kind of whips they have found to have the best quality.

                            This is more than a little hyperbolic.

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                              My analogy is that the direct consequences of technical questions are being more or less ignored, which I think is fair in both questions. Of course it’s not identical, but that’s stylistic devices for you.

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                              I could come up with quite a few objections to pornography, but the chap in your video link is not only not convincing, he is also hinting that he watches porn even though he denies it. He backs up his statement “porn is degrading to women” by qualifying “just look at it” which implies that he does that enough to have an opinion.

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                              I really want to know what their video processing pipeline is like since they generate clips and varying video quality levels for what I assume is every device in existence. There were some nice nuggets here. I didn’t know about the Beacon api or the intersection observer. Seems like a mostly boring stack but considering they’ve been around for about 10 years and the site hasn’t slowed to a crawl on my intentionally crappy test laptop it means they’re doing something right.

                              Did anyone pick up on whether they’re running all of their infra on AWS or just the vertica part? I thought the bandwidth costs would be killer.

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                                Why would they need to generate so many different quality levels? They probably just have 2 or 3 which is enough to cover most devices out there. Using ffmepg it’s trivial to generate these videos, though you need the infrastructure and processing power behind it.

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                                  When you do it live, constantly, on terabytes of data, the infrastructure and processing power become the big problems.

                                  Edit: upon rereading it, they actually sound like they put a big emphasis on quality and compatibility too. So their question is, “if we can we make this content incrementally better for X market segment, is it worth it?” Start from the biggest X’s and work your way down like any other priority list!

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                                    There’s absolutely no way they’d do live transcoding; these sites usually only have two versions, it’d be much cheaper to simply store both at all times.

                                    It’s actually a very simple thought experiment — you obviously cannot re-create the high-res version from the low-res one, and the low-res one would take so little space in storage compared to high-res one, that spending minutes trying re-create it from the high-res one would simply make very little sense — they’re probably transcoded once on upload, and pretty much forever cached.

                                    BTW, I’d suggest you read the DDIA book, which explains a lot of these things. It has many insights into how actual popular applications are designed nowadays, including the actual Twitter implementation — which answered my own question on why it often takes so long to post a Tweet.

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                                      They might only have two versions from your perspective (SD and HD), but having worked in video development, it’s likely they have 3-4 x those two versions for compatability. The web has converged on a few technologies in the last few years, making it less cumbersome, but if they want to cover “most” devices, then I still expect them to have at least 2-3 sets of files.

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                                      Do you think they do live transcoding? I’m certain they have multiple copies of the media transcoded to different qualities. It’s really not that much processing power when you have things like Ryzen boxes and GPUs which can rip through this in no time.

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                                      At this point, they almost certainly don’t. But in the not too distant past, they would have had to have a multiplicity of encodings, because of the varying abilities of the various browsers/devices/codecs.

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                                      This is tangential, but I have really enjoyed learning about how netflix handles encoding and processing their videos.

                                      Although Pornhub must process much more video than netflix does. I wonder what trade offs PH makes compared to Netflix’s approach based soley on the amount of content they have.

                                      Here is a brief article from the Netflix Engineering blog about encoding. But I first started thinking about it when I watched this system design video from Gaurav Sen.

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                                        Although Pornhub must process much more video than netflix does

                                        Are you sure about this? I don’t remember where I read it, but I’m sure at some point I read that one of the adult sites (likely this one) determined that most viewing behaviour is to watch a bit at the beginning, and then skip forward to about 80% of the way through the video. The consumption of Netflix [I’m guessing] would look very different, i.e., watching a film start to finish.

                                        I would have thought that this site could optimise videos for certain behavioural patterns.

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                                        Self hosted, I’ve seen their servers in the datacenter.

                                        Porn industry giants usually self-host as much as possible.

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                                          Self-hosted using Level 3 as the network provider per Rusty.

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                                          Although idk about processing, I do remember that Rusty said in Reddit AMA that they use Limelight for video CDN.

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                                          If you want to know more about the rise of Pornhub (and the owner, MindGeek) to have a de facto monopoly on online porn, it is worth listening to Jon Ronson’s podcast The Butterfly Effect. Jon Ronson traces the effects of the rise of Pornhub, and how it has impacted specific people around the world. It’s great!