Sex Sells: Tech's dirty little secret
Culver City (CA) - Sex sells and it makes the Internet hum. On the the bleeding edge of technology there is a former stripper learning some HTML. TG Daily got a tour of one of the world's multi-million dollar adult sites - Danni.com - and got the skinny on it all from the... IT administrator.
Danni.com was started more than ten years ago by Danni Ashe, a former model and stripper who taught herself how to write HTML code. Since then, the site has become hugely popular: According to Derek Devore, Danni.com's director of web products, the site now hosts about 20,000 monthly subscribers and receives millions of monthly hits. In the adult content industry, this may be surprising for some, as Danni.com is one of the more subtle offerings that does not provide access to hard-core content and instead offers downloadable and streaming soft-core shows. "We think of ourselves as more of a glamour model website than a traditional adult site," said Devore.
One of the main reasons why Danni.com can remain profitable is that it offers original and exclusive content in an industry that mostly copies recycles and re-uses content in different ways countless times. Devore told us that Danni.com makes all of its own videos and has exclusive contracts with most of its models. Each show can be considered a minor movie requiring script writers, set and makeup artists plus wardrobe specialists.
Most of the Danni shows are recorded in the Southern California studios, but the company has done on location streaming video from exotic locations like Hawaii, Devore said. The office studio in Los Angeles is aptly set up to resemble a bedroom; no real cameramen are involved, as Danni.com uses remotely operated Panasonic E600 cameras that are controlled from a room about 30 feet away. Live video is broadcasted at 300 kb/s while downloadable video is offered at 300 to 1000 kb/s bitrates.
The fastest computers currently available on the market are used to cut, edit and render video content. Justin Skinner, Danni.com's IT manager, oversees four workstations Apple's Final Cut Pro software as well as three encoding workstations that are based on dual-core AMD Opteron processors and use 4 GB of memory each along with a Terabyte Raid-5 array.
According to Skinner, the dual-core speedup has been tremendous. "Back in the days we used to wait three days to bring a video to the site. After going to dual-core, we encode at triple the speed," says Skinner.
So what's it like to be the IT administrator for an adult website? As you can imagine, the employees at Danni.com are pitched everything under the sun and Skinner says he is constantly fighting spyware, email viruses and attacks on the office's T3 connection. "I get attacks all the time on our home servers and just today... I've blocked 23,000 spam emails," Skinner said.
Danni.com pushes out an enormous amount of data, mainly video. Skinner told us that the Danni.com site itself has a sustained output of around 100 MB/s - that is Mega Bytes with a capital B - while the total from all the Danni.com affiliated sites is around 300 MB/s.
To cope with the impressive amount of traffic, the site uses Vitalstream's content delivery network to stream its videos. Rather than serving the videos directly from Danni.com's location, the videos are uploaded to Vitalstream, who then mirrors the files to thousands of servers around the globe. The advantages of this model are two-fold: Customers are able to view videos from nearby servers and Danni.com employees can concentrate on making content rather than dishing it out.
Devore claims that consuming adult video content pushes customers towards an upgrade of their home Internet connections. In the end, adult websites may have been a major inspiration for people to step up their bandwidth from dial-up to faster DSL or cable modem, believes Devore: "It definitely pushes people to get DSL... it's the biggest thing on the Internet that makes you do that," he said.
What's next for Danni.com? Devore promises even more content, online and otherwise. "Real life" content has been added recently: The company offers "Dream Dates" where fans can win a night on the town with their favorite Danni model. The dates are auctioned off to the highest bidder - the winner gets transportation, dinner and photos with their favorite girl.
Devore says the dates have been very popular and adds that "some have gone as high as $10,000." There aren't too many websites that can boast that kind of high ticket sales. Social networking will never be the same.