At least one of the moments when I became a confirmed Internet junkie happened in 1993 when I discovered Usenet. If you're not familiar, Usenet is a massive collection of message boards devoted to thousands topics both mainstream and arcane. And if you know your way around, it can also be a pretty good source to find digital media content — pictures, music, video and the like. I haven't looked at Usenet in a long time, but was interested to see an announcement from a seven-yeard old company called Guba. The company describes itself as a sort of Google for Usenet content, and among other things indexes some 300,000 image and video files every day. Google already makes Usenet postings searchable via its Google Groups service, but that doesn't let you search through groups devoted to trading binaries, which is where the music and video can be found.
This would normally be a yawner of an announcement as there are already several commercial Usenet subscription services out there -- Easynews, comes to mind as does Panic Software's Unison for the Mac. But what's getting attention is that Guba has a service that will convert video found on Usenet to the format used on the new iPod. If you know anything about Usenet, then you know that its widely used for trading what we delicately describe as "adult entertainment," and Guba CEO Thomas McInerney went so far as to tell a Reuters reporter that "We can kid ourselves, but in the end it's probably porn that people want."
Right. Well, at least no one should say they're surprised. As history has shown with such things as the VCR, the DVD player, and the Web itself, where technology goes, so goes smut. In reading about this on the Web today, I discovered that at least two other services are prepping adult content for the iPod, and surely more will follow. Portable porn has already turned into a burgeoning industry in among wireless phone users in Europe and elsewhere. By the reckoning of one Yankee Group analyst, consumers in Europe are spending $100 million a year for cell phone cheesecake.
As for Guba, I myself was more interested in its collection of vintage cartoons. I found among its offerings a few animated clips that are now more than a century old. For some reason I find the thought of a cartoon so old on an something so modern as an iPod to be kind of cool.