Usenet: Discovering The Basics


Learning the Basics of Usenet

What is Usenet? Although Usenet has been around for quite some time, many people still do not understand how it works. It was started in the late 70’s by students at Duke University. Usenet is a discussion system at its core, similar to bulletin-board systems. It is the grandfather of today’s popular web forums. The software used to read Usenet posts is called a newsreader. While web forums and bulletin boards use a central server, Usenet is decentralized. It works by linking a large cluster of servers that are continuously propagating. These servers store and forward messages between one another as a news feed.

Usenet’s resilience is remarkable. Its untimely demise has been predicted by many experts through the years. The reason it continues to exist is because it is topical. A typical social-networking site is just a hodge-podge of random posts. Usenet newsgroups are not. Usenet articles are organized into logical and defined categories. Threads are maintained for years as the knowledgebase grows.

How Does Usenet Work

Since Usenet has no “boss” so to speak, there is no one to either make or enforce the rules. Users cooperate and follow an unwritten code. There is also cooperation among news servers globally. When a user posts to a newsgroup, the server that accepts the post will then share the post with all the other news servers globally. Propagation is not instantaneous, it takes time for servers to connect and share. During this propagation period, posts are uniquely numbered. This prevents articles from being duplicated. Usenet may be the perfect system for disseminating information.

Is Usenet Dead

In this age of high speed and sleek graphics, can the forefather of modern web forums still be relevant after more than 30 years? Well, value is in the eye of the beholder. Usenet is a tremendous tool for people who have a genuine interest in a topic. It allows users to quickly review years of discussions and interact daily with experts in any number of fields. The most impressive websites can’t even say that.

How to Select the Best Usenet Provider

There are a few ways to gain Usenet access. Free servers exist, but the real meat is in the premium newsgroups. Premium servers run on a fee-based, subscription basis. Many premium providers allow new users to test the service first. Look for services that offer fast support, long retention, and high completion rates. Free trials are useful to verify provider claims are substantive.

Knowledgeable support is the basis of any good service. Check to see if a Usenet provider makes any support promises. 24x7x365 day support is a good start.

Retention is how long a provider retains articles. There has been a retention war in recent years that has resulted in increasingly longer storage periods. Whether Usenet providers can maintain this pace indefinitely has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the consumer is the big winner.

Completion is how many articles are supposed to be on a server versus how many are actually available. This is an area where free and low cost servers struggle and premium servers shine. Given the vast nature of Usenet, it is hard not to lose information. Look for premium Usenet providers that ensure a completion rate over 98%.

Though authoring religiously great content, Heather Craft is a part time blogger. Heather likes to blog in her off time in topics and news that catches her eye. Though Usenet was here prior to the internet we have today, Heather highly recommends a subscription based usenet newsgroup provider for it’s speed, quality, retention, and customer service.

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