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When a user purchases a subscription to a commercial site after clicking through from a free thumbnail gallery site, the commercial site makes a payment to the owner of the free site.
Sites containing thumbs that lead to galleries with video content are called MGP (Movie Gallery Post).Usenet newsgroups provided an early way of sharing images over the narrow bandwidth available in the early 1990s.Because of the network restrictions of the time, images had to be encoded as ascii text and then broken into sections before being posted to the Alt.binaries of the usenet.This type of distribution was generally free (apart from fees for Internet access), and provided a great deal of anonymity.The anonymity made it safe and easy to ignore copyright restrictions, as well as protecting the identity of uploaders and downloaders.Around this time frame, pornography was also distributed via pornographic Bulletin Board Systems such as Rusty n Edie's.
These BBSes could charge users for access, leading to the first commercial online pornography.
The main benefit of TGP/MGP is that the surfer can get a first impression of the content provided by a gallery without actually visiting it.
The most abusive form of TGP is the so-called CJ (abbreviation for circlejerk), that contains links that mislead the surfer to sites he or she actually didn't wish to see. Linklists unlike TGP/MGP sites do not display a huge amount of pictures.
A 2015 study finds "a big jump" in pornography viewing over the past few decades, with the largest increase occurring between people born in the 1970s and those born in the 1980s.
While the study's authors note this increase is "smaller than conventional wisdom might predict," it's still quite significant.
One recent entry into the free pornography website market are Thumbnail gallery post sites.