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Meet Fabian Thylmann, The Man Who Made Porn Free

Meet Fabian Thylmann, The Man Who Made Porn Free

Fabian Thylmann isn't a household name, but if statistics are to believed his products are.

In the late 90s, the German-born businessman and computer programmer made large amounts of money from NATS (Next-Generation Affiliate Tracking Software), used for marketing pornography across different sites.

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In a similar fashion to movie, TV show and music streaming, the first decade of the millennium saw a change in the way pornography was distributed and consumed.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Now, I have never seen pornography, of course, but I'm told that back in the day it was very hard to get hold of due to it being a) costly and b) frowned upon. Arguably also c) on the hard-to-reach top shelf of the newsagents in Belmont but that's by the by.

One of the key changes that has happened in the past decade is that a) and c) have disappeared (it's a chicken shop now). Porn is as easy to view for free as anything on YouTube, something Thylmann saw coming when he purchased companies such as Mansef and Interhub, better known as the owners of sites including Brazzers and Pornhub.

Adding RedTube and YouPorn to his portfolio, Thylmann made a fortune, selling the company in 2013 for €73 million (£64.9m / $89.9m at today's exchange rate).

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However, as Jon Ronson's 2017 podcast The Butterfly Effect details, Thylmann's stamp on the industry had a much wider impact that a reduction in attempted thefts of newsagent porn mags.

Just as music streaming services such as Spotify have decimated the royalty returns of all bar a few high profile artists, streamed (free) pornography has thinned the margins made by porn producers, directors and stars.

Moreover, with most porn sites (apparently) having a number of different categories, various actors find themselves caught in an age-based limbo. A woman in her mid-20s, for example, might not fit the creepy 'teen' bracket, but neither would she fit the equally strange 'MILF' category, a term the writers of American Pie could never have dreamed would become a mainstay of the porno world.

Credit: Pornhub
Credit: Pornhub

Thylmann's companies have had much the same effect on those working in the pornography industry as putting a Tesco Express on a high street full of small business owners would - a seismic, sudden shift wherein a new player comes to town with capital and resources, offering everything, in one place, conveniently.

(To clarify, that doesn't mean Tesco is giving away free porn. Or any porn for that matter).

As for Thylmann, he was charged with tax evasion in Germany and indicted in 2015. Those charges were dropped when he paid €5m (£4.4m / $6.1m), though he continues to have a suspended sentence related to a different case.

Check out Ronson's calm, soothing voice here, in The Butterfly Effect podcast.

Featured Image Credit: Facebook / Fabian Thylmann

Topics: Business, adult entertainment, TV and Film, Pornography, Streaming

Ronan O'Shea

Ronan J O'Shea is a freelance journalist from London who has written for titles including LADbible, Headspace, The Independent, National Geographic Traveller and New York Post. Contact him at [email protected]