What is Usenet?
It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Usenet before— especially if you were born after the 1980s. Usenet is a system that was created long before the internet to allow people to exchange information between computers. It was pretty popular among college students in the 1980s, and it’s actually still in use today.
The History of Usenet
Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott, two graduate students at Duke University, wanted to be able to send and receive information from their friend at another college in North Carolina, UNC-Chapel Hill. This was long before the creation of the world wide web, but around the time computers were used on college campuses. The three students were able to create a system where they could exchange information between their computers, and thus, Usenet was born.
At the time, Usenet was mainly used by college students and their professors to exchange scholarly information. It was the first to use discussion groups, called newsgroups. These newsgroups were labeled “science” or “politics”, etc. depending on what topics were discussed in each newsgroup. Later on, Usenet became more popular among people outside of the college scene. This later created more newsgroups whose main topics focused on pop culture.
In the mid to late 1990s, the internet took the world by storm, of course. But even with the emergence of the world wide web, Usenet was updated and kept current with the times, up to this very day! In fact, because of the updates, it works similar to today’s social media sites and the internet in general.
Newsgroups on Usenet today are generally the same as they were in the 1980s. However, today there are over 100,000 newsgroups covering just about any topic you can think of. And even if you can’t find a particular topic, you can create your own newsgroup for that topic. Usenet even has its own “Google” in a way: the newsreader is the search bar where Usenet users can type in anything they’re looking for and it will take them to newsgroups where they can find text and binary files.
In the 20th Century, Usenet only had text files. Now, Usenet has both text and binary files (or binaries). Binary files are images, audio files, videos, and software files. Binary retention refers to the amount of time these binaries will be available on Usenet. This means that you’ll be able to access and download binary files from years before— at the same download speed as more recent files!
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Many people today know that a VPN can strengthen computer security, and you’re probably wondering if you’ll need this with Usenet. The truth is that most Usenet servers offer what is called a secure socket layer (SSL) encryption so that everything you download from Usenet is secured, offering the same level of security that a VPN would. But, of course, you can always opt for a VPN if you want one in addition to the security that Usenet already provides.
How to Get Usenet
So by now you’re probably wondering how to access Usenet. Well the only way to access it is through a Usenet service provider— but not just any provider. There are several different Usenet providers out there, so you’ll want to make sure that you use a Tier-1 provider. This means that you’ll have the best bandwidth from the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to make sure that there’s no bandwidth throttling which won’t give you the best download speeds. With Tier-1 Usenet providers, you won’t have to worry about slow download speeds.
If you’re considering giving Usenet a try, there are some providers that will offer you a free trial period so you can get a feel of what it’s like. It’s something worth looking into, because there is nowhere else on the internet where you can access user-generated content with little to no censoring. Usenet provides a platform to share and access information unlike any other social platform available today.