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Just after midnight this past Saturday night, "Sexy23" finally gave in to the pleas of the hundreds of surfers who were watching her on the Web. A few minutes earlier she had been dancing clad in underwear and a camisole in front of her home computer in attempt to convince the anonymous viewers to award her points that would win her a vacation in Paris at the expense of the Tapuz portal and the Ego Channel. But the viewers were unenthused.

The anonymous dancer, filmed from the neck down, seemed a bit confused. On the one hand, it was clear that she didn't want to strip completely, but on the other hand, the "Me and my XXX - the next porno star" competition was about to end and every vote counted. After a few minutes, Sexy23 did indeed strip.

The competition last week on Tapuz's Blog TV - the popular portal's personal broadcast forum - may not have been anything special compared to a normal day on the blog, but it highlights the dramatic change undergone in the last year by the once conventional portal. Tapuz, which started off as a regular portal, has undergone a revolution under the leadership of CEO Guy Eliav, reinventing itself as community site after the demise of IOL. Last January, in a process that proved that if reality TV works on television there's no reason why it shouldn't also work on the Internet, Eliav launched the Blog TV venture.

The service allows any surfer with a Webcam and a microphone to have his own personal show with his own content. Some surfers adopt the persona of sensitive and caring radio talk show hosts and try to chat up their viewers, other pour out their hearts to the unseen surfers on the other end of the modem, and then there are those who play music at request; but the primary activity of Blog TV and the real reason for the venture's popularity is the "porno blogs."

During the venture's early days, in a way that seemed spontaneous much like the Internet itself, couples and individuals began to film themselves masturbating and having intercourse. When Tapuz executives realized that this could be problematic they limited these blog broadcasts, which were rated "for adults only," to the night hours, designated certain surfers as "policemen" to ensure that things did not get out of control, and added a warning that "this content is intended for adults only," just like on every porn site.

A year ago, when Eliav was asked whether he was concerned that the sexual activity on Blog TV would harm Tapuz's image, which was family-friendly if not family-oriented, he mumbled that such a possibility existed, but said he was willing to take the risk. A year later, it seems his gamble has paid off nicely.

Tapuz is thriving, by day as a multi-faceted community-oriented site and at night, at least on Blog TV, as a platform for personal pornography broadcasts.

Blog TV essentially is continuing the line Eliav established for Tapuz when it was changed from a general to a community portal: The surfers create the content, saving Tapuz expenses like paying writers, and the site markets it for them. In return, the surfers are given a platform.

"Dana," a 21-year-old surfer from Petah Tikva, increased the frequency of her appearances on Blog TV to try to win the all-expenses paid trip to Paris. Limited by her work schedule and her relative modesty, she doesn't think she has much of a chance of winning the competition. "It seems like that I'm pretty much a lost cause. If you want to win, you have to broadcast during peak hours, between 10:30 P.M. and 1 A.M., and then you may reach 700 or 800 people. After that, those numbers drop."

Dana says that when she started broadcasting on Blog TV she was amazed at the number of people who watched her. "I didn't imagine that even a quarter of that amount would come," she says, "but I was enchanted by the power over people in this. It's impossible to explain it. You see people's responses and you just want to continue. I received around 1,000 messages from all sorts of people who want to meet with me and made all kinds of offers. On the other hand, nothing real has come out of it for me, and I don't want people to identify me."

So why is she taking part in the competition now? "Paris, that's what's changed," answers Dana. "Besides, time has passed and I told myself that if I've been broadcasting for a year, it's time that I won something."

Tali Fink, manager of the Ego Channel, says the channel she runs agreed to sponsor the competition to promote one of its programs and because the Ego Channel's site is in any case on the Tapuz portal.

At the same time, she insists the competition has nothing to do with pornography, despite its name. "I don't encourage pornography. Even if there's pornography there, it may be sponsored by us, but I don't take responsibility for it and besides, there is a fine line between pornography and erotica," she says anxiously, "but we don't encourage people to do anything that they wouldn't be doing anyway. Blogs are not something we invented. We don't award any prizes and the cost of the flight is covered by Tapuz."

Eliav, as is his wont, is more direct. "We have around 100 contestants in the competition and tens of thousands of viewers," he says proudly. He says that in the year that Blog TV has been in operation, the average surfing time on Tapuz has increased from nine minutes per surfer to 16 minutes. "Sex," he continues, "is not something bad, and Blog TV is just a platform. We do a lot of things there such as performances, contests, hosting personalities and the like, and among other things we also have programs for adults. I don't think there should be a problem with it."

shahar_s@haaretz.co.il