Is Usenet Dead?

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Today, 40Tech is pleased to present you with a guest post from Jared Scott.

Long before you ever created your first MySpace page or added your grandma as a friend on Facebook, two guys in North Carolina were looking for a new way to share local announcements. The year was 1979, and Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis of Duke University established a link to the nearby University of North Carolina and Usenet was born.

Early the next year, Usenet was connected to ARPANET through UC Berkeley and the community quickly flourished.

Before online discussion forums, email or instant messaging, Usenet was the original social network.

In many ways, Usenet was the Wild West of the Internet. No subject was too far out there and “Newsgroups” for just about every topic imaginable were created. Spirited discussions between professionals and amateurs would play out over days, weeks or months.

Usenet is the place where Linus Torvalds’ announced Linux, Tim Berners-Lee announced the World Wide Web, and where the first “Make Money Fast” post was placed.

And most movie buffs don’t know that The Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb, even began on Usenet in 1990.

With the emergence of the World Wide Web, many people began calling for the death of Usenet. In fact, I just read an article on TheNextWeb.com this past week referring to Usenet as Long Dead & Buried.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

While no longer commanding the spotlight it once shined under, Usenet has been quietly thriving for years. As major Universities and Internet Service Providers abandoned their Usenet servers, private enterprise stepped in to pick up the slack.

No longer constrained by the limited budgets of academic institutions and armed with capital from paying customers, competing Usenet providers have been steadily improving the product and providing previously unthinkable levels of service.

Today, it is not uncommon for a Usenet service provider to offer one or all of the following:

  • Uncapped Download Speeds. By harnessing the full speed of your Internet connection, downloads can take a fraction of the time they do with other technologies.
  • Privacy & Security. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) server connections provide an encrypted link between your computer and the server keeping prying eyes out.
  • Huge Data Archives. Retention of data may be the biggest improvement of all. Almost nothing gets deleted from Usenet these days.

Now well into its 30’s, Usenet has continued to develop, evolve and mature. As one of the pillars of the Internet, Usenet has a long and robust history. And as a system built on openness and mutual benefit, Usenet is well positioned to last another 30 years.

If you’ve never used Usenet or just haven’t used it in a while, take a look. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

Jared Scott is a blogger and Internet entrepreneur who spends the vast majority of his waking hours connected to the Internet. He’s currently the Manager of Public Outreach for Binverse.com. You can follow his updates on Facebook.

9 Comments:

  1. Usenet is also the place where Kosmo and a partner held court in a discussion group about the country group Alabama (which was tied to our popular web site devoted to the group). We were movers and shakers back in the era before entertainers had their own online presences (mid 90s). I’m pretty sure my partner was the guy who officially requested the creation of the group, though – I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.

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  4. Wow, usenet brings back memories. Flame wars, religious crusades, thought-provoking posts and insane rantings. I’ve never downloaded files from usenet, cause I already get all the binaries I needed from IRC.

    Too bad no local ISP here carries free usenet anymore. But life goes on, and the flame wars has moved on to egroups, then to online forums, then to blogs, and now to social networks.

    What about gopher? Now that’s a neat protocol.

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  6. You guys certainly pre-date me. I was aware of Usenet, but have never used it. I’ve always been curious, but not enough to shell out the cash.

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