Usenet is one of the best-kept secrets on the Internet. In many ways, Usenet pioneered many of the Internet phenomena we take for granted. Message boards, file sharing, and certain Internet terminology were all on Usenet before Reddit and BitTorrent were even glimmers in the Internet’s eye.
While some grizzled Internet veterans might be familiar with Usenet, most of the online public isn’t aware it’s ever existed. Some of those vets might even be surprised to learn Usenet’s still kicking around in certain corners of the Internet. In many ways, It is more successful and important than ever. Ahead, we’ll discuss the history of Usenet and why you would still want to use it today.
The Creation of Usenet
It predates the World Wide Web, with roots that date back to when the Internet first became widely available. Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis first thought of what would become Usenet in 1979, and it went live a year later. For most, It represented the first time people realized the capabilities of the Internet, and the future it could someday create.
“Jim created the first people-centred application for what we now call the Internet,”
Canadian technology writer Mark Adams told Wired upon Jim Ellis’ death. “All of a sudden, people started understanding the potentials and fun that could be had when computers were connected.” And that’s why Usenet was created in the first place: fun.
Ellis and Truscott were avid computer chess players. They used large, Unix-based connected computers to play chess online when the thought occurred to them that there must be a way to bring this experience to the masses. At that time, people mostly used the Internet for sending and receiving computer programing information – not exactly the pinnacle of excitement.
A few years after Ellis and Truscott conceived of the initial idea of Usenet, the servers were booming. Users were posting and commenting on newsgroups – something similar to what you’d see on a Reddit thread today. Still, It remains very different than these types of sites in some important ways, but we’ll talk more about this below.
While these newsgroups were groundbreaking at the time, the Internet with which you’re familiar has replaced them in many ways. One of the ways Usenet stayed viable, though, was in the ability to share files.
Why Would I Be Interested in Usenet?
So, why would you care about It apart from learning about an essential element of Internet history? Well, there are a few reasons you may care.
First and foremost, It is entirely unregulated. This may sound intimidating at first, but it’s quite liberating. No one person, company, or entity owns Usenet. This element is by design. It shares information over countless servers, so there isn’t one server that houses all of the data that’s ever existed on their platform.
For that reason, there’s no one suppressing ideas, censoring content, or removing unpopular opinions. Sure, this kind of unregulated mess can devolve into some pretty unsavoury stuff, but there’s also beauty in it. Nobody owns Usenet, and there’s no corporate motive pushing any agenda to the top.
Admittedly, this isn’t a selling point on its own. You can find virtually any information you need on some corner of the Internet. The real draw comes in the file sharing capabilities of Usenet. If you’re someone who is constantly scouring torrent sites for popular downloads, It can be a dream come true.
Many of the downloads you find on torrent providers originated from Usenet. Software, music, movies – everything is available for download on Usenet. Torrenting is a dangerous game, and even one download can cause the federal government to raise an eyebrow at your Internet provider. Since Usenet is unowned and unregulated, there’s virtually nothing they can do here.
On top of that, It is fast – like, really fast. Downloading a file from Usenet makes torrenting look like someone trying to run a race in flip-flops.
Usenet > Torrents
When you compare Usenet’s file sharing capabilities to torrents, there’s no contest. As we’ve covered, It is faster and provides a safety net from your Internet provider and governments.
If you’re a true torrent junky, then you’re probably always looking for the newest, hottest downloads on the web. Usenet will have these before you ever see them on a torrent platform. Most of the time, people sharing these files on such platforms downloaded them from Usenet, to begin with. If you want something that isn’t as popular, you probably have a better shot on Usenet as well. It’s extremely versatile, with virtually no limit on the files you find.
One of Usenet’s most popular sets of newsgroups, alt binaries, receives Terabytes of data every day, so there’s almost certainly something that will serve your need. If not, there are countless other newsgroups you can search to find the file for which you’re looking.
Safety and anonymity is another selling-point for Usenet. There’s no registration, and most Usenet providers offer some sort of SSL encryption to keep your download history safe and secure. No one will ever see what you download if you don’t want them to, giving you the freedom to obtain files you may otherwise be too nervous to download on a torrenting platform.
Okay, But What’s the Catch?
The old saying, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” is universal. Usenet isn’t perfect. Some bumps come along with a completely unregulated file-sharing network.
The possibility of viruses is the first and most obvious downside of downloading files from Usenet. The term “spam” literally originated on Usenet, which gives a clear sense of what you’re potentially exposing yourself to by using the platform. If you think using this service instead of torrents will decrease the chance of a virus contaminating your computer, you’re wrong. The risk is about the same, so you can’t download everything you see.
One of the reasons more people don’t use this service is because it’s relatively difficult to get into. You can find a tutorial online, but it can still seem daunting if you’re not well-versed in Internet lingo. Tech-savvy individuals won’t have too much of an issue, but there’s a steep learning curve when you try it for the first time.
Lastly, It isn’t free. Internet providers used to offer Usenet services, but that’s a thing of the past. You’ll have to pay a Usenet provider a subscription fee if you want to gain access to the platform.
To access all of the uncensored newsgroups you’ll likely have to go through a Usenet provider such as UsenetStorm. Some ISPs still offer access to this service, but those are the minority of cases. Most of the services offer different Usenet plans and cost somewhere in the $15/month range. If you just wanna try it out, there are cheaper, limited monthly options.
Most of the top options will offer the same style of service. All should offer unlimited downloads and speed in the same price range. SSL Encryption is standard at this point as well. Retention is more variable, so this is where you can compare and contrast different offers.
Retention refers to how long files will be available on their platform. Since they have to keep all of that data, they’ll purge their memory bank every once in a while. Try to find a service with a longer retention rate of a few years at least. Some of the top options will keep binary retention for around four years, with text retention lasting even longer.
As far as paying for a plan, it’s important to know how much you intend to download. If you’re constantly downloading large files, you’ll want to buy the unlimited service. If you’re dipping your toe into Usenet for the first time, you probably won’t exceed the limit of the cheapest option. This element is up to you, but try not to overpay if you’re using it for the first time. You can always upgrade and get those files next month.
Usenet at a Glimpse
In classic Internet fashion, we’ll give you the one sentence summary. If you’re addicted to torrenting, you need to check out Usenet.
It pioneered many of the Internet elements we take for granted, and they’re still the king when it comes to sharing files. For the low price of a subscription, you’ll have access to all the files you can dream of at the click of a mouse. The speed is unparalleled, and you’ll reduce your risk of exposure while using Usenet.
That is it; you are good to go in your dreamland. The experience of being there just gets better, trust me on this and use it to know it for yourself.