It all began with two students in 1979 from Duke University in North Carolina. Tom Truscott’s and Jim Ellis´ idea was to create an alternative to Arpanet (the early World Wide Web) where people from all over the world were able to discuss various topics.
The result was Usenet which allowed two computers using UUPC as its transportation protocol to communicate with each other.
The different topics were separated in different “Newsgroups”. And these Newsgroups were categorized into seven hierarchies (comp., sci., soc., talk., rec., news., mic.). In 1995, after the hierarchy humanities was added, these hierarchies became known as the Big-8 of Usenet.
The name of every Newsgroup was composed by the hierarchy, a sub-hierarchy and the topic of the Newsgroups. This could look like this:
“comp” is the hierarchy for computer discussions
“dcom” is the sub-hierarchy for the RPC-System DCOM
“servers” is the topic being discussed
The discussions in this Newsgroup are obviously all about DCOM and servers.
There was one big problem though. To communicate with other people the user would need a special interface. The solution was the “Newsreader” which was able to open, read and share these postings.
After these problems were solved Usenet took off and become one of the most important technologies of the 1980´s. Much of the Internet jargon we use today originated on Usenet and even the hierarchy structure has been a model copied in many internet forums of the modern age.
As hard as it is to believe, there was a time before Facebook, Twitter & YouTube ruled the internet.
A time where you could have lively discussions about your thoughts on almost any topic with people from all over the world. And that was long before the web we know today was developed.
But contrary to popular belief, Usenet is not just a thing of the past. In fact, while the new kids on the block steal the spotlight, in many ways, the old man of the internet is more popular than ever.
In fact Usenet may be better today that it was back in the old days. As Universities and Internet Service Providers have abandoned their Usenet servers, premium Usenet providers have stepped in to fill the void.
Premium Usenet providers are able to offer services that the free providers of the past could only dream of. Today it is possible to get an ultra-fast, secure Usenet connection for about the price of a cup of coffee. And with retention rates steadily rising, you can find almost anything you are looking for.
A number of providers even offer a free Usenet trial so you have nothing to lose. If you like downloading, give Usenet a try. You’ll be surprised by what you find.