Is pornography actually taking a back seat online?

Seems so... at least when it comes to spam. America Online's second annual list of Top 10 Spam Topics puts Vioxx and dubious mortgage deals ahead of porn for 2004. Phishing scams also topped the 2004 spam charts.

Formerly frequently seen spam terms, like 'Oprah', 'Teens', and 'Viagra, are on the outs, according to the AOL report of the most widely sent junk email subject lines for the past 12 months. The Top 10 list is based on spam reports forwarded to AOL's spam team by members.

But pornography isn't gone. Actually, the fourth most frequently seen spam this past year was 'Steamy Hot Lesbian Action'. However, spam filters are doing a better job at keeping these kinds of emails out of inboxes.

Pitches for Vioxx made up the top spam subject line of the year, with different phishing scams coming in second and third. Porn, as noted above, took the fourth spot, and online medications grabbed fifth.

AOL analysts report that the 'flavor' of spam changed dramatically from 2003 to 2004.

The most noticeable change was in the rise of phishing or identity theft scams, according to the report. These schemes included information theft, those citing inheritances to be collected, and the infamous 'Nigerian' scam.

The second big change came in the decline of image-based spam and a return to more pure text messages, especially when related to pornography. And spam this past year was more apt to simply contain a URL address or hyperlink, and nothing else.

But the AOL report also notes that the type of spam wasn't the only thing to change. The type of spammer sending the junk email also changed.

AOL contends that spammers have undergone a 'virtual makeover', becoming more 'sophisticated, nefarious, shadowy... malicious and, unfortunately, dedicated'. Small-time spammers have gone the way of basic dial-up connections and major spamming kingpins have taken over.