What is the Usenet?

YouTube, social networks, blogs etc…. Web 2.0 are still the words on everyone’s lips. Individual online platforms and forums enjoy incredible popularity with Internet users of all ages. After all, they provide like-minded people with a simple and straightforward way of getting in touch, exchanging views and entering discussions. The user generated content (UGC) which this creates, together with the complete freedom of speech which it enjoys, makes the “new” web incredibly diverse, colourful and popular. The Usenet is one of the UGC pioneers. It was originally a platform for students to keep in contact long before the WWW or other Internet services like social networks even existed.

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And the Usenet is still as trendy as it has always been! In fact, it is full of trends! The Usenet contains everything that sets new trends, from young artists, unknown bands and the latest cool DJs to trailers, games and much more besides! The Usenet starts where the Internet ends.

But what exactly is the Usenet? How does it work? How can I access it and what can I actually do on the Usenet? These are all questions which will be answered below.

The word Usenet has become a name in its own right, but it is actually an abbreviation for “Unix User Network”. In short, the Usenet is the world’s largest, mostly unmoderated digital discussion forum! It is a platform where people from all corners of the globe meet, communicate, exchange views and network. Everyone is free to join and take part. The Usenet itself is practical and clearly structured. It is divided into so-called newsgroups on a hierarchical basis. Each newsgroup is essentially a separate discussion forum, in which an almost unlimited amount of information and data is contained. The title of the newsgroup gives a short and concise representation of the group’s content. Just like on the Internet, abbreviations are also highly popular on the Usenet. This is also reflected in the names of the newsgroups. For instance, the group a.b.freeware stands for alt.binaries.freeware. So-called binaries (binary files) are contained here. Binaries is an umbrella term for a whole host of different applications, data and file attachments. We will go into more depth about newsgroups in the following paragraphs.

Did you know? Older than the Internet, more up-to-date than ever!
Did you know that the Usenet is older than the Internet? The Usenet was born in 1979 when two students at Duke University in North Carolina came up with the idea. Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott conceived the Usenet as an exchange platform for messages between two universities. The data was exchanged using the Unix protocol UUCP via conventional telephone lines.

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From a technical point of view, Usenet is made particularly interesting by the fact that it is locally organised. This simply means that the content of the newsgroup and therefore the Usenet is not located on one central computer but instead on a whole host of different Usenet servers working in parallel. These are constantly connected. The advantage of this architecture is that it allows the information and data saved to be available in the entire network for a certain amount of time – the so-called retention time.

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However, the retention time is not the same for each Usenet service provider, and is instead dependent on the provider’s individual server settings. In general, users should ensure that they select a Usenet provider with a retention time of at least 250 days, because that is exactly how long Usenet users have access to the information and data saved on the Usenet.