Before the World Wide Web, Twitter, and Reddit groups, there was Usenet. Designed as a discussion-based user network, Usenet is the longest-running communication platform in existence. Considered as the first social network, users can freely post information and discussion topics with little to no censorship and interference. While this obscure communication platform was developed well before the internet, it has been highly guarded and praised by its close-knit community. If you yearn for the days of the 1990s chatrooms on a reliable and secure platform, then Usenet is a viable internet alternative.
History of Usenet
Usenet was originally constructed for academia and was mostly used by university students. It was developed in 1979 as a way to easily transfer information from one computer to another. Duke students Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott teamed up with Steve Bellovin of North Carolina, where they successfully exchanged information between the two Universities using telephone modems. At the time, Usenet was groundbreaking and provided an alternative to the US Military’s Arpanet system, which eventually became the internet we know today. However, in the early stages, Usenet users were only able to exchange information in plain text. It was not until 1997 that binary files such as images, audio, and video were able to be transferred within the network.
What is Usenet Today?
While similar to discussion boards and online forums, Usenet is an entirely different type of communication platform. Today Usenet is a collection of user-submitted data and information where users can exchange audio, text, image, and video files. This information is frequently updated onto a worldwide network that contains a variety of different subjects and discussions. Resembling an online-bulletin board, each collection of information is split up into something called a newsgroup. Although Usenet works in a similar fashion compared to the internet, it’s a completely different network. Therefore, you cannot access its server through traditional web browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Instead, you have to subscribe to a Usenet provider.
What Exactly is a Newsgroup?
A newsgroup is a discussion forum that is only accessible through the Usenet server. For example, since Usenet acts as a type of internet, a newsgroup is essentially a site or forum where information is published. There are hundreds of thousands of newsgroups throughout the Usenet server, and users can create as many as they please. Users can also search and follow newsgroups, just as Reddit users can follow threads. You can even post and comment on newsgroups that catch your attention.
Are Newsgroups Moderated?
Usenet is known for its largely uncensored stream of information. However, newsgroups can be both moderated or unmoderated. Just as the admin has to approve a post in a private Facebook group, the moderator has to approve a post in a moderated newsgroup before becoming part of the discussion. In unmoderated newsgroups, there are no restrictions, and posts immediately become part of the discussion.
Who Can Join Newsgroups?
Joining newsgroups through Usenet is simple and can be more secure than other online discussion platforms. Anyone can join, and once you are connected to your Usenet provider of choice, you can enter any newsgroup with the click of a button. Once you click subscribe, you can easily post and comment as you please.
Is Usenet Safe?
Usenet is just as safe as any other internet provider and actually safer as it has a much smaller user base. Usenet providers also pride themselves on privacy and servers do not monitor and keep track of your browsing habits or store personal information.
Uncensored communication and distribution of information are becoming a necessity in today’s online-driven world. While traditional internet practices continue to change and online privacy has become an ongoing issue, Usenet servers are drastically growing in popularity.