The state of Usenet

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Usenet was the first file sharing network.

It is older than e-mail or the web

It all started as a bulletin board service (BBS) for text messages, in 1980.  What made it interesting for the time was that it could be accessed from the Internet instead of calling in to access it like any other BBS of the era.  At that time, only text discussions could be posted and it was actually technically impossible to post or upload a file to Usenet.

The text messages were uploaded to 'newsgroups', because of the type of messages that were posted.  The kinds of messages being posted radically changed over the years, but the term stuck and there are now more than 100,000 newsgroups available, covering everything imaginable.  If you just think of them as subjects, topics, or categories you will be fine.

There is no one server, company, or provider in charge; instead, it is a distributed network spanning hundreds of server clusters around the world, each one mirroring all of the content of all of the others and being totally independent in every way.

At some point, someone figured out how to convert files into text that could be posted to Usenet.  This was a major advancement for the time, and it quickly became the first file sharing network and significantly predates things like Torrents.  Over time, files became the majority of the content posted to newsgroups and the platform just exploded.

Growth of Usenet

Source: Wikipedia

It appears that there has been the most growth over the last 5 years, but it has really been like that for more than 20 years.  Jumping from 250 Gigabytes in 2002 to around 500 Gigabytes in 2003 was huge growth for the time, it just doesn't look like much now.  Our perspective has just changed.

There is now over 27 Terabytes of new data posted to different groups every day, or over 64 million posts.  They cover every subject imaginable, literally.  From discussions about politics to high-resolution sex videos involving tickling....yes, there is a newsgroup for that.  It is totally unregulated, with providers having no control over what is posted, and that is what people like and hate about it.  There is a lot of spam and there are a lot of viruses if someone is not careful, but that freedom is also what keeps it growing...good, bad, and ugly.

Traditionally, you must have software to access, just like you needed e-mail software to send an e-mail and you need a web browser to see a web page.  There are very few good ones out there and they all cost money.  So if you want to access Usenet you need a provider (like us) and then you need software to be able to connect.  As you can imagine, this is a little bit too much to ask of someone that is just learning about Usenet, so some providers started providing software with their accounts.  These are all either made by that provider and 'ok' or licensed retail software that's good, but ALL of them are restricted to being used only with the provider you bought the account with....except us.

Newsbin is the best Usenet software out there so we provide it to our users for free.  When a user buys the software from the makers of Newsbin they have to also pay $2.50 per month for the search feature, but we include this for free as well.  The version we provide is also not restricted to only our servers (a good number of people use more than one Usenet provider) so they can use it with other providers as well, just as long as they keep their account with us.  As far as we know, we are the only provider to offer Newsbin or to provide unrestricted software.  For users that know what they are doing, this is a major thing.  We also do not make users use Newsbin.  If they have other software they already like then they can use that and that is also important for experienced users.

The traditional problem with Usenet is that it requires software to access it.  New users just get lost trying to get started accessing with software.  Any software.  Newsbin is powerful but it needs to be a lot more user-friendly, so we wrote tutorials to help totally new users get started using Newsbin the first time.

The other problem with needing software to access is that there is no good software for smartphones.  iPhone/Android have nothing even 'ok' available, so right there 50% of all Internet traffic is excluded from accessing.  This isn't right, so we offer a web-based interface.  It doesn't include every newsgroup, only the largest ones, but the idea is to let someone access without software on a computer (maybe they are at work and can't install software or just think it's confusing), smartphone, or tablet easily.  They can browse the files in newsgroups, they can add them to their list so they are easy to come back to (like bookmarking), or they can search for something they like.  When they see a file they want, they can select to download it without having to stop browsing, and we let them know when it's ready to actually download.

A couple of other providers offer a web-based interface as well, but they either only offer this (no direct Usenet access) or charge extra for it in some way.  We do not, and we want to emphasize that we are all-inclusive.  We have everything our clients need and they will not be charged extra for anything, ever.

Essentially, anyone that knows what they are doing is going to be using software and will never even see the web-based interface.  Totally new users need to be using software to get the best experience.  Accessing with software gives you access to so much more data and is the best way to access if they can get comfortable with it.  But, if they just don't want to use software, or can't (like on an iPhone/Android) then we have a comfortable interface for them.

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