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Flickr: The Newest Entry In a Wave of Evolving Wankware

Flickr: The Newest Entry In a Wave of Evolving Wankware

The last new wave of pinup porn pay sites has made its mark, and sites like Suicide Girls led the charge. Now that SG is partnering with Playboy.com, that charge is a little less alternative and Playboy can sheepishly dip its toes in the alterna-chick pool. But the hot young tattooed, all-natural, un-airbrushed, pierced and pale hotties-next-door flavor has been only part of the appeal for customers' membership.

What sites like SG, FatalBeauty.com, and newcomers like SinGarden.com offer is hundreds of stroke-worthy girls, served up with a huge side of membership perks like community groups, profile-building, journaling, and many ways to make a hookup with more than the hot model-du-jour. The forward-thinking brains behind these locales took porn pinup sites to the next level, combining the lure of fresh flesh and constantly updated content with a social networking site. And they've hit the jackpot – three times over if you count profit, publicity, and customer retention.

Give a Web wanker something worth hanging around for, and they'll stick around and buy more stuff. The interactive quality of these "community building" porn sites ups user time, keep customers hooked, encourages guerilla marketing by members inviting their pals to join, and brings them all back regularly with more than a simple membership. For just a few bucks a month, a member gets thousands of photos, a personal profile, a Webcam host, message board access, the ability to join or make discussion groups, event postings, contact information for the girls, and about a dozen ways to make a hook up – all about sex.

This is the exact format that makes sites like Friendster, iFriends.com, Tribe.net, and Google's new and trendy Orkut monsters in the membership numbers game, and while these non-sex sites are free, they rake in the dough with advertisers. But even with free membership, layers of profile-building capabilities, and interest-based means of meeting other members, sites like Friendster are losing their luster – and dumping Friendster for greener, more adult pastures is now in vogue. All for the simple reasons that Friendster forcibly restricts mature and adult content and censors member's profiles for any content the site feels is inappropriate, from nudity to profile photos that include firearms.

Granted, sites like Friendster have their sex subgroups and categories, and users have been quick to adopt the technology to find better ways to get off, sell their adult services under the radar, or just hook up. Tribe.net, cashing in on the flood of disgruntled users from Friendster, has myriad adult groups ("Tribes") where users discuss porn, hook up for threesomes, post personal Webcam services, and more.

However, there are restrictions on each of the "mature content" categories and users are not allowed to have mature content in their profile photo or user name. The bottom line is, none of these free sites offer the membership services exclusively for sex, or exclusively catering to an adult audience, something that Suicide Girls and Fatalbeauty.com's Webmasters have been banking on.

And bank on it they have. But making a few bucks a month on members is a known quantity, held together by the community-building infrastructure of the alterna-hottie sites. Sure, there's cross-marketing, a dicey but possibly lucrative gamble found in enterprises such as SG's plans for a burlesque review, print magazine, and Playboy.com partnership. Falling back on the solid revenue from membership is essential, but when adding more members is your main means of expanding revenue, your growth is limited to marketing around constantly attracting new members.

The answer, of course, is getting more money out of existing members, but t-shirt sales are a pretty slow way to build an empire. What if you charge a bit more for a premium membership using the newest advances in Web community software, and what would that be if you could imagine it? Take the porn pinup and social networking idea to the next level by looking at what's emerging in the world of peer-to-peer software development for information sharing and collaboration.

Enter Flickr.com, a free live photo-sharing and IM/chat (Instant Messaging) site. Much like Friendster and Suicide Girls, members build a profile with interests and photos, and can join and create interest groups. But they can also utilize the site's revolutionary real-time drag-and-drop tech and live chat so members can deliver photos and converse with others instantly. Members' profiles are more detailed and image-rich, with a "shoebox" of personal photos and a means of categorizing who gets to see those images.

Flickr seamlessly blends the proven successful social networking site model with the ability to share media in real time. For individual use on a sex site, this is a premium way to wank. Wanna hook up? Meet someone in a chat room. Want to "cyber" with them in real-time? Make a private room. Drag a hot photo onto their name, and they see it immediately. Images can also be shared with groups in IM discussions.

Like each of the other social networking sites, groups are formed in Flickr by people with a shared interest, such as "anal sex" or "rubber fetish." Each group has its own homepage and discussion board. In the Flickr model each group will have one or more "channels," a chat window available on the group's homepage, where ongoing discussions are happening in real time. Individuals can branch off and make their own private chat channel.

Outside of groups, members can click on someone's profile and send them an instant message, opening up a new window containing your IM communication, a window that can be moved around the screen. Other members can be added to the discussion by dragging and dropping their name from your personal contacts onto the discussion window.

The platform makes it as easy as possible for the consumer; users only need Flash to operate the real-time functions – it all happens in the browser window and the user does not need to download any software. There are no system requirements for Flickr; all is needed is a Web browser.

Contact between individuals happens in a hierarchy that each person can organize in their profile – contacts are ranked in order of intimacy and importance. In Flickr-speak, an "acquaintance" is a casual contact and the most intimate contact would be a "soul mate," a friend that gets to see all the good stuff.

Translate this to a sex site, and the models on Suicide Girls could organize fans into a hierarchical profile, where premium members pay a higher fee to have greater access to an individual girl's more explicit photosets. So her "soul mate" gets to see the hardcore shots (and hardcore updates), whereas her "acquaintance" gets to see the standard photosets and subsequent updates.

Girls could also communicate with premium members in real time as they visit chat rooms and groups, and give the higher-paying members little presents by dragging new photos onto their names. And with the Flickr platform, users can adjust their profile to show different parts of their profiles with different types of friends – this function could be figured as an automatic part of premium member access. She could also keep a Flickr-like "shoebox" of personal photos only accessible by premium members.

Flickr.com is in its beta stages, created by a small design team, and is a fast-growing experiment – much like Friendster was. And for crafty adult Webmasters who know how to cash in on "sticky" content for their members, it could be the next step in evolving your wankware.

Violet Blue has worked in robotics internationally for eight years. She is also a bestselling sex author. Her home is TinyNibbles.com.

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