Python: Content to Squeeze the Competition

Python n. [L. Monstrous serpent killed by Apollo, from Gk. <>I>Python] a large constricting snake

Pythoness n. [Gk. Python, spirit of divination, Fr. Pytho, seat of Delphic oracle] 1. A woman believed to have a spirit of divination 2. A priestess of Apollo held to have prophetic powers

Divining rod n. a forked rod believed to divine the presence of water or minerals by dipping downward when held over a vein

As we all know, Pythons are not venomous. They kill their prey by the constricting force of body muscles. Similarly, all men like to think that they come equipped with a powerful pythonic muscle, a divine rod (with forked tongue) dipping downwards toward the cherished veins of golden (think pink) ore. But how many of us knew that there was a "pythoness?" I know I didn't, but it doesn't surprise me, either. It seems just like men to appropriate a feminine ideal for their own phallic ends. Whatever its origins, the image of the python is at once powerful and sexual, combining masculine and feminine archetypes into one lethal coiling creature. That may be why it was chosen to represent one of the more dominant forces in the adult Internet industry, Python Communications.

Or maybe they just like snakes.

Python Communications is one of the leading adult content providers in the world, probably in the top six, though the intense secrecy inherent to the adult industry makes any sort of reliable comparisons impossible to determine. Suffice it to say they are one well-hung company and getting bigger by the day. In fact, the original focus of this article was a company called Club Casa Rosso, from Florida, another content provider. But when contacted, we were told that they no longer existed and had been absorbed (or devoured) by Python, with whom they have had a close relationship for years. Just exactly what that relationship was has been difficult to clarify, especially from the Club Casa Rosso end, but David van der Poel, one of Python's founding fathers, verified the connection in a telephone interview from the company's North American headquarters in Toronto.

"We took over a couple of their products, he said, with characteristic Dutch understatement. It turns out the two entities, Python and Club Casa Rosso, were more partners than mere acquaintances, according to van der Poel. The original strip-club in Amsterdam was Casa Rosso (still is) and that was retained as the name of the Florida-based company; they just added a "Club" to the front of it for their Internet operations. Apparently it didn't go so well.

"The people who we cut the deal with in Florida weren't as successful as I would have thought with the Club Casso Rosso project, and since Python was a very successful project, we decided to take what was still valuable in Club Casa Rosso and bring it under the Python umbrella." One of those valuables was Sexcites, an adult search engine. More about that later, but the point is that this snake is ever mutating. Picture Python as something like the alien biological organism in The Andromeda Strain, doubling in size every few minutes and threatening the indigenous life forms of the planet, in this case, other content providers. To borrow a phrase from another brutal sport, they definitely have their eyes on the prize. One of Python's parlor tricks is to stay at least an arm's length away from any unwanted scrutiny, being content to conquer America from the relative safety of Toronto and Amsterdam, where the European headquarters are located and where van der Poel and his partner Toine Roddenburg hail from. It's also where Python began (in that same aforementioned club) and from where their vaunted live sex shows still originate. The feeling is that they very skillfully manage to make themselves very accessible and yet manage to remain completely enigmatic. Like the Invisible Man, you know that they're there, but you can't get your hands on them. But since in cyberspace there is no "there" there, what does it matter?

They do have an impressively diverse portfolio, that's for sure, but first a little history. According to a company bio, Python's conception took place in the winter of 1995, when van der Poel and Roddenburg were club bouncers in Amsterdam. They got one of those kooky ideas that entrepreneurs are always getting and decided to mount a video camera inside the most famous club in the Red Light District, the very same Casa Rosso. They wanted to advertise the shows as well as promote certain "educational programs" that they had established. What "educational programs?" Why, the Bananabar, of course: instruction in the proper technique for eating bananas that are protruding from... well, just use your imagination.

This primitive first foray onto the Internet proved to be very popular and brought a lot of new customers into the club with Internet discount coupons that were printed from the Website. They were also getting a lot of traffic to the site, so they decided to get ambitious. They set up their Live Sex Show on the site. One of their favorite cutesy stories has it that they bet a programmer a chocolate bar that he couldn't devise non-downloadable software for them. Three days later, they anted up. Then they found a small company in America to handle the credit card processing and they were off. The rest truly is history.

It was the Live Sex Show from Amsterdam that really put the company on the map, and put enough money in their pockets to finance an empire-like expansion. People loved it (still do) and everybody wanted the feeds for their site. Today they have four Live Sex Shows still originating from Amsterdam, two gay and two straight. In the beginning, they used the same acts that the actual in-house customers were seeing, but they've built small studios on top of the club and those are now the shows that are streamed throughout the galaxy. They have about 200 performers under contract and apparently the pay and job security is quite good. In fact, van der Poel told me that there is one performer (male) who has been doing it for twenty-three years. Twenty-three years of six to twelve shows a day, seven days a week. My 7-11 isn't open that much. That's gotta be one worn out weenie, but van der Poel says the guy looks great for his age, "not like an old fart," and always seems to find new eighteen-year-olds to copulate with.

The live shows are now just one part of the Python Empire, though they are still considered the Battleship Cruisers of the fleet. Smaller, but still substantial, vessels include two gay Websites, ManAlert and HardContact; two straight sites, Tempted and Space Amazones; a new search engine, Sexcites; and a non-adult site called Psychic Realm. The last is also a new undertaking, for all you psychically oriented, I Ching reading, star match dating, numerology counting, rune throwing devotees out there. Ironically, according to van der Poel, the site isn't quite up to speed as far as traffic goes and he hardly sounded very enthusiastic about it, but possibly it's just a matter of expecting the tremendous traffic that the adult sites generate. There are also sites called Tit Talk, a live 1-on-1 interactive chat with sound, and Wet Pix, which contains a seemingly infinite number of photo featurettes. It seems as though every time you turn around, there's another Python product staring you in the navel.

I asked van der Poel about the search engine; yes, another adult search engine in what has become a very crowded field. He took the high road, "We've been working around the clock to keep it according to the quality and standards we have with Python, on keeping it clean and fresh, in design but also in links." He gives most of the credit to his staff, his editors. "To keep a good product, you need editors and people who are really involved with having the product in top shape all the time. And besides the time and effort they spend on it, they need certain skills as well, so I think my editors are skilled people who can keep the product up to date and fresh all the time." I mentioned the rather tasty content contained on Sexcites, a pictorial star of the day in each of five categories (hetero, gay, Asian, fetish and amateur) that visitors can vote on and the accompanying archive of each day's star for every day of the previous five months. That's a hell of a lot of free content on a search engine. "Right. Regardless that every Website is similar and every search engine is similar, there are some differences, and I like Sexcites as a product. It's a little bit different. There's the picture-of-the-day, there are other products we give to the surfer on the side, where he can go and look for thumbnail galleries, where he can go for gambling. Even when it was under the Club Casa Rosso umbrella, I liked it as a product. That's why I said, let's bring it under the Python umbrella." (Does it rain a lot in Toronto?) I did find several links that were not active, however. He explained that even though it's up and running, generating a fair amount of traffic, he has yet to energetically promote it because all the technical bugs are not worked out yet. He expects that should all be a thing of the past by printing time, though. His plans are to then aggressively promote it to clients and activate links to it from Python sites and hopefully many others.

Van der Poel seems to have a special affection for Space Amazones, another new site. Though, in all honesty, I don't know why. It's not bad of course, and the content is probably far superior than average, but the outer space theme feels a little retro, especially in design. But van der Poel is the one with the vast porn empire and the financial wherewithal to bring fantasies to life. He sees Space Amazones as a kind of launching pad for the technological future of Python, and he's probably on target. "It's a bit different from any other Website. It's a bit more concentrated. I'm trying to develop a flash version of it and just go with the flow; the broadband market will start, so it will be more dynamic than just an HTML page where you can find pictures and a live show. We have to start building the site in a more interactive type of format."

Technological innovations are certainly not a recent preoccupation for Python. " When we started the Amsterdam Live Sex Show four years ago, we were the first to organize live hardcore shows with non-loading software. Of course it was coming from Amsterdam, but it was also on a technological platform that no one was pushing, no-download streaming software. That really kicked us into our success. You have to catch the new technology wave all the time, to be a little ahead of the pack and continue to grow, which of course is the goal of this company. When we started it was me on the phone and Richard (a partner) in Toronto running the machines. Now we have forty people working for us in Toronto and twelve in Amsterdam, and we have all the performers also."

One interesting thought is how Python deals with American legal issues, especially considering the fact that they are not an American company, and that, of the thousand or so clients that they service, the vast majority are located in California, with a smattering in Florida and New York. "We stay compliant to U.S. law as much as possible. We have quite a big bill every month to pay out to lawyers, who advise us as to what we should or shouldn't do. It's a bit hard because we don't have any laws back home. It's an exaggeration, but there's a lot of freedom back home for us. Even in the clubs we only do as we say 'home garden and kitchen' sex, so we've never been doing extreme stuff. We'll try to continue our business in that way."

And what about the cultural differences between a sexually progressive country like Holland and a sexually conflicted country like the U.S.? "Well, it creates the market. It's good for the market that there are so many restrictions and taboos about hardcore stuff." That's certainly one way of looking at it, probably the only way for an astute businessman and foreigner. It's a strange thing, this Internet. To be silently conquered from beyond one's borders, unaware of the muscular serpent slowly coiling around you, tighter and tighter.