Usenet newsgroups were never on my radar even when they were pretty popular a decade or so ago. Recently, I stumbled upon Reddit groups talking about newsgroups. I decided to explore this world and go through the messy process of setting up browsers and aggregators. It seems outside of distributing software like torrents - there isn’t any real discussions or relevancy to these newsgroups that I can uncover.
So asking the community. What do you use newsgroups for? Are there active communities out there or some relevancy to them that I’m not seeing as a new explorer?
I hadn’t looked at Usenet Newsgtroups for maybe 5 years so last month I finally got around to cancelling my subscription to the Giganews service. It was several years before I stopped looking regularly that I can remember finding anything of interest, on either the Linux groups or several others I used to frequent.
I haven’t used Newsgroups in a good decade or more. I used to be a fairly fervent user about 15-20 years ago, but since web forums like vBulletin and all of its successors (such as Discourse!) became popular, newsgroups began declining in popularity.
Nowadays I imagine they’re a VERY niche area, probably filled with spam and bots.
Back in the day (damn that makes me sound old) they were the go-to for darn near everything & I used them extensively. However, with web forums & various social media tools, I let my accounts lapse about 3yrs or so ago & should have let them go long before then.
As with many things, spammers ruin everything. They are now all filled with spam. and kids with nothing better to do than flood the groups with BS. When you would complain to the source of the SPAM/flood,they would not even bother to reply.
USENET has a lot a other weaknesses with were never addressed. One is date/time stamps. One thing I would see is somen of the flooders would change the date of their computer forward by one year, then flood the group with hundreds of nonsense messages. This would push all the current ones down.
You could block that person, and have all their messages removed from, your client,. but they would just change names, or servers and be back at it again. I guess it became too much of a hassle for companies to keep up with all the crap going on there.
I would agree with some of the others who responded that usenet became over the last few years a wasteland in some respects, but there are some spots of life and relevance for some of us. My own personal uses for usenet:
(1) Some excellent conversation can still be found in some groups: for me, these are exemplified by the groups “alt.fan.tolkien” and “rec.arts.books.tolkien”, though there are others.
(2) My favorite active newsgroups are those on the news server that Steve Gibson (co-host of the podcast “Security Now” and author of Spinrite and SQRL) has run for almost 20 years that I’m aware of. It’s at news.grc.com, it’s low traffic, no spam, but high quality geek conversation – a real community. Highly recommend it even if you abandon regular usenet.
(3) Another favorite use I make of usenet are the gmane.org groups at news.gmane.org which basically archives mailing lists of a lot of tech-related groups, and can be a useful tool for reading those outside of an email app.
That’s just my $.02, and I realize that, for most people, esp younger people, usenet is a relic of the past without a lot of relevance since a lot of the good stuff about usenet has migrated to places such as this Discourse community.
Newsgroups were a fascinating thing before the web took off (and yes, I did browse them from time to time before even Mosaic and Netscape were around) but since then I’ve not really accessed them. Apparently at one stage Google bought them or something… not sure what happened after that?!
Usenet is a peer sharing system. Nobody can buy anything (except a server to setup) then it shares all the messages across all the servers.
Google did setup their own Usenet servers, but with their own groups added which do not permeate to other usenet servers. That is called Google Groups. Still widely used. Problem with using the Google Groups and you post to a regular usenet group, your email address is exposed, and you start getting spam.
Wow, those are still around?!!
Worth some nostalgia for those of us who used them in their heyday, but I don’t think much more than that. Now there are too many options for community discussions that boast much nicer interfaces and capabilities. This forum would be an example, as would Reddit.
Funny story – I once spent months writing a C++/GTK+ app to automate downloading and decoding UUencoded binaries from various groups. Only then did I discover that I could do the same thing with about 3 lines of Perl!
Now that compute power and hosting is cheap enough that any community that puts its mind to it can host a Discourse server (or suchlike, but there’s no forum software that I like better than Discourse at present), I say USENET is irrelevant.
I say Discourse alone (never mind any other competing forum softwares) is enough to close the book on the USENET. I think I downloaded some anime pictures off there back in 1995 or something.
This might sound spicy, but I also wouldn’t miss IRC if it disappeared tomorrow either. I never do any corresponding, or problem solving there. Signal and Wire have group features now that blow away IRC, IMHO.
Re Google Groups – back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there was a site called Deja-News (I can’t remember if the hyphen was there or if it was just one word) whose stated objective was to archive every single usenet post (excluding binaries where were relatively new then) and make it searchable. Google bought Deja-News and incorporated their data into Google Groups, and last time I checked (it’s been a few years), you could still search posts in the traditional groups. I never used it to post or read newsgroups, though. I always missed Deja-News after it went away in its original form.
Thanks for that info. I was not paying mich attention to Google in those days. I recall the Deja site. I recall it was a product review/comparison site. I had not realized they had Usenet. Nearly every ISP offered usenet with their service so I never had a reason to look for other sources for it.
I was looking for that site maybe a year ago or so. I was thinking it was MyDeja, but that’s MySimon
Yeah, my ISP (BT Internet) used to provide it and I used it some. When they stopped offering Usenet the people they licenced from (Giganews) offered a special offer to BT Internet customers and I took it up. I used it less and less but sort of forgot I was paying for it and didn’t cancel until a month or so back. That the tricky thing with recurring payment schemes, you forget about their being there.
I used to use them back in the day but discussion boards and various social media (do we count reddit as a grand discussion or kissing cousin to social media?) totally displaced it.
What I sometimes have odd nostalgia for are the days of dial up BBSs.
Wow, BBS’s now that is when things were fun and exciting!
There are still some BBSs online connected via the internet. Even on the old Commodore 64
I recall when a me and a friend were kids, we got ahold of an unlisted Sprint or MCI customer long distance access number. It was crazy because they only used 4 digit PINs to access long distance.
We called a bunch some big time BBSs which had pirated games to download. Would take hours to get them.
Wow - do you have a working C64? It was my first home computer. I used to find the power supplies and cassette players didn’t last
No, not in a long while. I just don’t have the space to keep all the old stuff laying around.
People stopped using cassette player after the prices of the floppy drive started going down.
Yep! And I remember having software (we’re talking Apple II+ here) that would actually use your modem to very slowly brute force your way to discovering new Sprint or MCI numbers, too. Glad you mentioned this – I’d forgotten all about it!