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Usenet, end clap: what does the end of its support by Google mean ?

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You may have already encountered Usenet through the “newsgroup” of some (old) messaging software. Usenet, created in 1979, is one of the oldest computer networks. It is based on a set of protocols that make it possible to generate, store and retrieve messages (similar to emails) and to exchange these messages between members of a community spread over a large area.< /p>

Usenet is organized around discussion groups, where each group gathers contributions on a specific topic. These groups are organized in a hierarchy, and users can subscribe to them to access new articles. Usenet works similar to today's online forums. Usenet servers on different hosts feed off each other, allowing each user to access the same information as any other user, no matter where they are.

How Usenet became a den of pirates

This distributed structure means that Usenet operates largely without censorship and has long been a popular way for academics and techies to transfer files and emails, as well as provide forums for discussing various topics. In addition to the exchange of text messages, Usenet also allows the exchange of binary files, such as images, audio and video files, through specialized newsgroups.

Users can post binary files to these groups, which are then replicated to other servers in the same way as text messages. Usenet is legal, but because of its anonymity it has also been widely used for illegal activities, including sharing copyrighted files. Which probably largely explains why Usenet has remained so popular until today.

To use Usenet in 2024, users must most often choose a Usenet provider, such as Usenext, which provides high-speed access to the network – create an account, download a news reader (software allowing access to Usenet newsgroups), configure this reader to connect to the provider, search and subscribe to newsgroups of interest, and finally, publish messages or download files.

Google actually only disconnects the free interconnection between Usenet and the web

However, one of the most popular free alternatives is simply to access Usenet via Google Groups, since Google has also been offering access to newsgroups via the Internet for a very long time. Google also has the largest archive database in the world on the network – with posts dating back to 1980. This database was originally started by the company Deja.com, which began archiving Usenet posts beginning in 1995. In 2001, Google acquired Deja.com and its database , integrating the Usenet archive into Google Groups.

It is in this context that we learn thatfrom February 22, 2024, it will no longer be possible to publish new messages on Usenet via Google Groups. The existing archive will continue to exist for viewing. However, users will not be able to add any new content via Google Groups. Does this really mean the end of Usenet? Not quite.

Certainly, it is becoming significantly more difficult to access this parallel network of the Internet – which suddenly finds itself significantly less connected to the visible internet. Especially since most ISPs will no longer offer interconnection in 2024. The fact remains that operators like Usenext continue to offer paid access allowing both posting new messages and downloading files.

Of course, these will no longer be visible for free via Google Groups but they will remain so for all people who have maintained (commercial) access to an NNTP server. Usenet being completely decentralized and under the control of no organization, it will therefore continue to exist as long as its users wish.

It remains to be seen whether this somewhat obsolete means of sharing will really remain active for a long time – while the latter has already celebrated its 45th candle. Its major advantage lies in the fact that it remains relatively under the radar of those who monitor the piracy of files protected by intellectual property law…

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116