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R.I.P Usenet: 1980-2008 625

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the we-hardly-knew-ye dept.
CorinneI writes "In a way inconceivable in today's marketplace, Usenet was where people once went to talk — in days before the profit-centric Internet we have today. The series of bulletin boards called 'newsgroups' shared by thousands of computers, which traded new messages several times a day, is now a thing of the past."
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R.I.P Usenet: 1980-2008

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  • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:51PM (#24419139)
    Netcraft confirms it!
  • Google Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shuh (13578) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:53PM (#24419185) Journal


    Just like MTV is now Youtube, USENET is now Google Groups.


    Same thing, different name.
    • Re:Google Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:00PM (#24419333) Homepage Journal

      Or yahoo groups or Myspace groups or ......
      Just not the same thing to be honest. The real problem for usenet and the Internet in general is that it is just to easy.
      A lot of the good stuff from usenet has now migrated to mailing lists and online forums but it still isn't the same.. Ahh the good old days.

    • Re:Google Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:41PM (#24420119) Homepage Journal

      While it might be a pretty modern front end to usenet it doesn't help the fact that the back end feed is slowly being strangled by spam, and now legislation.

    • Re:Google Groups (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:02PM (#24420509)

      I do hope not.

      For one thing, Google Groups is currently acting as the equivalent of an open relay to all of Usenet, resulting in a vast increase in the amount of junk messages. They should be treated by other Usenet servers in the same way that we treat any other open relay: ignore anything coming from it until it gets its house in order. I fail to understand why Google being Google exempts them from this treatment. :-(

      For another thing, Google Groups sucks as a Usenet interface, and numerous clients do a much better job of it.

      • Re:Google Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:40PM (#24421153) Homepage

        Google groups is indeed the source of a lot of spam posted to Usenet. But it's also the source of a lot of non-spam posted to Usenet.

        For example, about 27% of the posts to the Big-8 come from Google Groups now. If less than 27% of the spam posted to the Big-8 comes from google, then it's doing a better job of controlling it's users than Usenet as a whole. (I don't know if this is the case or not. Posts are easy to count. Classifying them as spam or not is harder.)

        Either way, Google Groups is such a big contributor of noise and spam to Usenet because it's such a big contributor of _posts_ to Usenet.

        No argument about the interface, however. But the retention is nice!

    • Re:Google Groups (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RomulusNR (29439) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:02PM (#24420511) Homepage

      The demise of Usenet was a long time ago, and coincided with the introduction of the web-based forum.

      And this is the single most damaging thing to the availability of information to happen to the Internet, at least until the Wiki came along (which hasn't necessarily solved the problem in question). When there was Usenet, there was one (okay, maybe two) places to find an answer to a question on a given topic of expertise. Now, with the move to isolated independent web-based forums, of which there may be at least a dozen or more possible places to find information (not to mention a multitude of competing general question sites like Yahoo Answers et al), the odds of finding an answer on the Internet to a question have gone down, because the probability that the person with the answer to your question visits or has visited the web fora you visit has gone down.

      In short: Used to be everyone would use one or two Usenet groups both to ask and answer questions, now everyone uses any given number of the much larger set of web fora on the same topic. It actually has become less likely to find a good answer to a question these days.

      (And at least on Usenet even if no one could answer your question, you'd be certain to get lots of entertaining snark from regulars.)

      • Re:Google Groups (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chemisor (97276) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:35PM (#24421061)

        > The demise of Usenet was a long time ago, and coincided with the introduction of the web-based forum.

        Uh, no. It coincided with the flood of spammers who discovered that it costs nothing to post on the newsgroups and that most people use their *gasp* actual email addresses in the posts. Now if you post anything, you are guaranteed to be spammed on the newsgroup and off. At least the forums are too numerous to attack effectively and are at least somewhat moderated. They are also more anonymous as you get to use different identities, with no public email address for each one. Sure, if spam were outlawed, usenet might come back, but as for me, I haven't posted on a newsgroup in almost a decade.

  • by night_flyer (453866) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:53PM (#24419195) Homepage

    it was about alt.binaries.mp3s

    • by waffledoodle (1070284) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:02PM (#24419383)
      Dude, be cool!!!
    • by uniquename72 (1169497) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:40PM (#24420109)
      While I know you're right, I feel much better and safer knowing that it is no longer possible to trade kiddy porn online anymore.

      The ends justify the means. Thank you, Mr. Cuomo.
      • by barzok (26681) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @04:30PM (#24423147)

        The ends justify the means. Thank you, Mr. Cuomo.

        Just yesterday, Cuomo was out posturing and making sure he was strengthening his political future [democratandchronicle.com].

        The office asked Internet providers both small and large to strip their servers of child pornography Web sites and child pornography newsgroups, which are a major supplier of illegal images. ...

        If companies don't voluntarily comply, Cuomo said in his announcement Wednesday, legal action will be taken by his office. ...

        One of the Rochester area's largest Internet service providers, Frontier/Citizens Net, declined to sign the agreement, Cuomo said, adding that he sent a letter to Frontier and LocalNet, which also declined to sign the agreement, stating that his office will take legal action against those companies that do not voluntarily comply.

        Explain to me how the hell this is "voluntary". This is the same things as the "mandatory volunteer work" that many high schools are requiring now. It's not voluntary if you'll be punished for not doing it!

        "I made the case that I believe they can be held responsible... child pornography is illegal," Cuomo said.

        Then let's start holding all those ISPs responsible for copyright infringement RIGHT NOW because they're still making it possible to do it. Or will he wait until it's feasible to put the brakes on the most public, most easily-blocked methods and THEN make it a mandatory voluntary program?

  • Web 2.0 ftw (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aredubya74 (266988) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:53PM (#24419199)

    "Usenet was where people once went to talk â" in days before the profit-centric Internet we have today."

    Internet company profits have zero to do with the decline of USENET as a discussion forum. In its heyday, it was the only Internet-wide forum. It's been supplanted by web forums of every conceivable niche. Web 2.0 beat it out, plain and simple.

    • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:06PM (#24419489) Journal

      Except that no Web 2.0 forum comes close to matching the features that any decent USENET client had 15 years ago. Things like real threading, filters, kill files, etc.

      • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:37PM (#24420037) Homepage Journal

        Except that no Web 2.0 forum comes close to matching the features that any decent USENET client had 15 years ago. Things like real threading, filters, kill files, etc.

        That's actually quite doable. Making forum software that is feature-competitive with newsreaders is totally viable. That's not what concerns me.

        A bigger problem (which web mail suffers from, as well) is that web forums are a way for a server operator to make decisions about the features you get (as well as how/if it is integrated with other content, whether for good (I won't go into that, here) or ill (ads)), rather than leaving those decisions to the client.

        I really see it as technological step backwards.

        As an exercise in absurdity, imagine if we applied the same trend to the web itself. In addition to "web mail" and "web forums", imagine "web web", where your browser window contains a widget consisting of code loaded from someone else's server, and that widget has features similar to a web browser. Oh wait, we have that: Flash and Silverlight.

        • by colfer (619105) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @03:30PM (#24422041)

          Also downloading for offline reading & permanent storage is a lot easier with Usenet. Thunderbird is a bit wanky, but does it.

          Usenet can also be adapted for use as a company forum. One big webhosting company uses an NNTP hierchary instead of a user forum, with a universal password to access it. There are pluses & minuses, but it sure is simple. The features are client-side. The downside is you have to have the archives to search for answers.

      • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tkinnun0 (756022) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:49PM (#24420285)
        Yet here we are, on a web forum, and not on USENET. Makes you wonder whether those features were just a crutch to get around USENET's design flaws.
        • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:36PM (#24421071)

          Yet here we are, on a web forum, and not on USENET.

          But this isn't a universal forum. USENET encompassed any topic and was the most widely read set of forums. If you wanted an answer to a complicated technical question, it was the best place to go. If you wanted to discuss obscure music theory, it was the place to go. If you just wanted to sell your old sofa to local people, it was the place to go. It was frequented by geeks and non-geeks.

          Web forums don't do that. They're all specialized and there are too many of them. Slashdot only covers topical news of interest to geeks. Web forums have always been complex to use, almost always requiring registration to write, sometimes even requiring registration to read. You'll find tens of forums all devoted to the same topic. One newsreader would keep track of all your news groups you were interested in, and you could add and remove them as you wish; what keeps tracks of the hundreds of forums I may be interested in and provides the same interface to them?

          The problem with USENET dying is that there is no replacement for it! This isn't the case of horse and buggy being usurped by the automobile. It's more like playgrounds being replaced by televisions.

          I think USENET started going downhill when the spammers and advertisement took over. There's still activity on USENET, it's just been declining steadily.

          Personally, I never liked the Google/Dejanews twist to archive postings for eternity. In the old days (get off my lawn!) it was a place just for discussion, not to get your words down for posterity. Once I learned things were being archived and searchable, I definately felt I had to ask less stupid questions...

    • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:08PM (#24419525) Homepage Journal

      I don't think either explanation really matches reality. Usenet started to seriously deteriorate to the point most people I knew who were regulars started to drop it around 1995-1998. At that time, while there were web forums, they were still in the teething stage and no replacement for Usenet. That, for me, is the time Usenet "died". It began to be re-invented as a binaries distribution network shortly thereafter.

      Why did it die? Spam. Spammers began to make swathes of Usenet unreadable. After a few managable carpetbombs, the serious spammers first attacked in earnest the alt.sex hierarchy (it's an interesting fact that comes as a surprise to many that back in the early nineties, alt.sex contained some of the most respected newsgroups in Usenet. alt.sex.bondage, for example, was originally started after a prank revealed massive interest in such a group, and it became one of the more respected groups thereafter.) The groups became unusable within two years, with a few migrating to "safer" areas out of the alt.* hierarchy. After that the rest of Usenet started to get similarly hit.

      A few attempts were made to protect Usenet, from serious attempts to hold ISPs to account for their users (which caused more damage than it helped, as the legitimate customers of those ISPs were cut off from Usenet too and as a result drifted away, reducing the S/N ratio even further) to attempts to introduce various forms of moderation that, ultimately, also caused more damage.

      People just gave up. Even the spammers started to give up after a few years largely because it wasn't worth their time any more, but by that time Usenet was dead anyway.

      What's dying today isn't Usenet, at least not the network in operation back from 1980. It's a binaries distribution system, the one that took over from the mid-nineties onwards.

      And frankly, I don't know about you, but I don't care about that one.

      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:26PM (#24419811)

        I think the same thing is happening to e-mail, at least e-mail over public mail servers. With the advent of new communications methods, it's just getting less and less worth the energy required to cope with the parasites (spam and such). People can still exchange interesting stuff via YouTube, but I bet that gets destroyed by spam soon enough, too.

        It's probably some rule of evolutionary biology: if you create a pool of low entropy, a cloud of parasites will spontaneously arive, like maggots to meat, to eat it and destroy it. Then I guess you move on to the next thing, huh?

        Pity we don't simply hunt down and destroy the parasites in our own midst, so that we can spend less time and cleverness keeping ahead of them.

      • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:27PM (#24419853) Homepage Journal
        A lot of the more respectable groups started moderation systems back when the spam onslaught started, but they were afterthoughts on a system not designed for them. The problem with moderator systems is that it requires a small handful of trusted moderators, and what do you do when they grow tired of the subject and leave? Electing a small group of moderators (technically, it's rarely an election, they're usually self appointed) always seems to start the slow death of a newsgroup.

        It's really a shame because as people have pointed out, the tools built into your average usenet client completely blow away most web forums for features, especially with threading, scoring, tracking, etc... Plus, the Usenet is fast, being a simple text protocol with built-in multicasting you can support communities of millions with virtually no drain on your personal resources. Web forums frequently crash and burn when they start to become popular because the centralized hardware requirements and the fact that you have to run a database means that once you start getting more than a few readers per second you have to start looking at specialized solutions or lose your community to database overload crashes and general slowness. Unfortunately, it is this feature that guarantee that any two bit joker with an internet connection could clobber a group with spam.

        As it is so often true in life, we can't have nice things because some jackass will always try to mess it up.
      • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:37PM (#24420033) Journal

        What's dying today isn't Usenet, at least not the network in operation back from 1980. It's a binaries distribution system, the one that took over from the mid-nineties onwards.

        And frankly, I don't know about you, but I don't care about that one.

        Frankly, that's the only one I care about. Sure, there is TONS of porn, but there are also respectable (non porn) files out there as well. When my wife missed an episode of "Dancing With the Stars" a while back, where did I find a copy? Newsgroups. When the latest Ubuntu was released and my ISP was slowing BitTorrent to a crawl, where did I turn? Newsgroups. When I wanted some ideas for how to set up my garden, where did I turn to? You guessed it, Newsgroups!

        There are some things that no Web site can offer that you can only find on Usenet. That stupid Dancing with the Stars thing is an example. It was not available on any website because it is protected (even though there was absolutely no other way of retrieving it). With ISP's starting to block P2P, we should always be able to fall back on good ol' usenet.

        Which brings me to the point you mentioned about spammers. Spammers are relatively easy to avoid on Usenet. The bigger problem is spyware, viruses and trojans. However, the beauty of Usenet is that someone can reply to a post with bad intent and say something like, "Do not download! VIRUS!!!" You can't do that on a non reputable or hijacked website. All you can do is hope that the file you downloaded really is the XP drivers for a new "Vista Only" system and not a virus that will zap your HDD.

           

      • Re:Web 2.0 ftw (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Khelder (34398) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:54PM (#24420379)
        Completely agree. Spam was the bane of Usenet and the fundamental cause of its demise. I "was there" for the Green Card Lawyers [wikipedia.org] spam (got the t-shirt, etc.), and in my mind that was the beginning of the end.

        comp.sys.apple2 and rec.humor.funny, how I've missed you.

  • WHAT? (Score:5, Informative)

    by olliec420 (1023207) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:53PM (#24419201) Homepage
    I use it all the time!
    • Re:WHAT? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ClaraBow (212734) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:03PM (#24419399)
      So do I! It is still a great place to exchanges ideas and stuff. Just because mainstream internet providers are dropping it doesn't mean it is dying. Usenet is immortal, like Dracula, it will never die.
      • Re:WHAT? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Man in Spandex (775950) <prsn.kev@gmai l . c om> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:27PM (#24419837)
        Hmmmm, so we have to stake Usenet through its heart, or at least hurt it with garlic?
      • by g2devi (898503) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:08PM (#24420621)

        > Just because mainstream internet providers are dropping it doesn't mean it is dying. Usenet is immortal,
        > like Dracula, it will never die.

        SPAM: [after SPAM's cut off both of the UseNet's arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left.
        UseNet: Yes I have.
        SPAM: *Look*!
        UseNet: It's just a flesh wound. ....
        SPAM: Look, I'll have your leg. [Recieves a very sharp kick] Right! [Chops off one of the UseNet's legs]
        UseNet: Right! I'll do you for that!
        SPAM: You'll what?
        UseNet: Come here!
        SPAM: What are you going to do, bleed on me?!
        UseNet: I'm invincible!
        SPAM: You're a looney.
        UseNet: The UseNet always triumphs! Have at you! Come on then. [Hopping on one leg towards SPAM]
        [SPAM chops his other leg off, leaving his body upright on the ground.]
        UseNet: Alright, we'll call it a draw.
        SPAM: Come, Patsy!
        UseNet: Oh, oh I see. Running away, eh?! You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you! I'll bite your legs off!!

        [Fade to black.]

        Netcraft: Bring out yer dead. [Hits gong]
        Mass Media: Here's one.
        Dead UseNet: I'm not dead!
        Netcraft: What?
        Mass Media: Nothing. Here's your ninepence.
        Dead UseNet: I'm not dead!
        Netcraft: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
        Mass Media: Yes he is.
        Dead UseNet: I'm not!
        Netcraft: He isn't!
        Mass Media: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
        Dead UseNet: I'm getting betta!
        Mass Media: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
        Netcraft: I can't take 'im like that! It's against regulation!
        Dead UseNet: I don't want to go on the cart!
        Mass Media: Oh, don't be such a baby!
        Netcraft: I can't take him.
        Dead UseNet: I feel fine!
        [Mass Media knocks UseNet dead]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:54PM (#24419205)
    please stop posting the opinions of bloggers as fact.
  • Bullcrap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fnj (64210) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:54PM (#24419215)

    Stupid headline. Usenet is still there. Stupid idiots who are slaves to only what their ISP spoon feeds them may drop off. So what.

  • by feyd-rautha (1256602) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:56PM (#24419255)
    My 1+ year subscription to EasyNews [easynews.com] would indicate otherwise...
    • by houghi (78078) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:51PM (#24421359)

      Subsciptions are only realy needed for binaries and that is the one thing that should move elsewhere.
      There are plenty of free servers out there. Below some I use. Most you need a subscription that is free to get:
      root@penne : grep ^server /etc/leafnode/config|awk '{print $NF}'
      news.cnntp.org
      forums.opensuse.org
      news.dommel.be
      news.motzarella.org
      news.sunsite.dk
      newszilla.xs4all.nl
      news.xs4all.nl
      fb1.euro.net
      news.readfreenews.net
      nntp.aioe.org
      news.news4us.nl

      There are many more out there.

  • Premature (Score:5, Informative)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:56PM (#24419257) Journal
    The obit is premature. Usually when a service "dies" it would mean it's no longer available, but anyone can still buy usenet access here [usenetserver.com], here [easynews.com], here [tigerusenet.com], here [thundernews.com], here [newsdemon.com], here [newsrazor.net], here [giganews.com], or here [usenet.com].
    And that is by no means a complete list. If anything, usenet may actually return to a more usable medium again, now that it won't be free for all the spammers and trolls anymore. Then again, it may well not -- it's not like all the illegal traders will just give up and go away, so I guess it depends on how much money the **IA, the BSA, and the morality police want to spend on "eradicating the problem".
    • Re:Premature (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sarcasmooo! (267601) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:03PM (#24419397)

      You forgot Astranews [astraweb.com], which probably belongs in the middle there somewhere. (I like it anyway).

    • Re:Premature (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:09PM (#24419547)

      > now that it won't be free for all the spammers and trolls anymore.

      Indeed, there are at least two Usenet providers that drop all posts originating from Google Groups, so that we can enjoy spam-free feeds today.

      I previously paid for a feed from Giganews, but they did not support the NNTP commands required to drop GG at the server so I was paying for their downloads as part of my monthly quota.

      I have subsequently found a free Swedish provider with an agreeable degree of snobbery...

    • Re:Premature (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pecosdave (536896) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:12PM (#24419613) Homepage Journal

      Trolls were a part of usenet, just like they're a vital part of Slashdot (yes, I mean that). It's the whole Yin/Yang thing, a couple of trolls are good for comic relief and keeping things going. I'm not advocating turning EVERYTHING into 4chan, just a statement that trolls aren't so bad.

      No, what killed usenet, at least for me, was spammers.

      You didn't DARE use an email address you actually used anymore (being able to email individuals was sort of a feature back in the day). Every site got spammed by off topic spam, and yes, when you were looking in alt.titties.redheads there was always some jerk posting loads of homo's (beyond the reasonable troll that is).

      Usenet was killed by the same thing that's currently killing email. Seriously, how bad is it when Facebook is a better way to communicate than a normal email address?

    • Re:Premature (Score:5, Informative)

      by maztuhblastah (745586) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:17PM (#24419707) Journal
      Even better, I'd recommend Motzarella [motzarella.org] for totally free Usenet access. Well over 40K groups, and although they don't carry binaries, retention and fill on the text groups is outstanding. Oh, and they support SSL, even SSL on port 443 (for those at work behind "fascist firewalls.")
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:57PM (#24419273)

    I worked in ISP support for years and USENET was dying well before child porn was a nail in it's coffin. Probably has something to do with message boards with much friendlier interfaces, or that ISPs never went out of their way to try to explain what usenet is.

    Either way, the newsgroup support call was kind of a rare thing, like finding a Yeti or something.

    people stopped caring, and now it's going away as essential from an ISP POV. There are still ways to get NNTP feeds, so it's not completely toast.

  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:57PM (#24419283) Homepage
    If they end up dropping the binary groups... who cares? Google hasn't announced that they are dropping their mediocre (but useful) usenet client service. There are plenty of usenet groups still active - usenet may be in decline.. but hasn't that but true for so long already its practically a joke? Lets face it - there is still a need for readily available, easily searched (and filtered), unmoderated discussion groups.
  • by kahei (466208) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:57PM (#24419297) Homepage

    alt.beloved.usenet.gone?.withered?.dead?
    alt.black.day.is.is.ever-shall-be

    alt.thoughtful.pause.pause.pause.pause

    alt.brief.check.make.perform.check
    alt.noble.usenet.remains!.lives!.cheers!
    alt.brave.usenet.!surrenders.!bows.!gone!

    alt.silly.blog.!informs.!researches.!educates
    alt.dumb.blogger.drools.mashes-keys-at-random.drools
    alt.credulous.slashdot.reports.dramatises.alarms

    alt.trusty."alt.adjective.noun.verb.verb.verb".remains.endures.twinkles

  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:01PM (#24419347) Homepage Journal

    "Before the Eternal September, but after the Great Renaming, I learned about sex on Usenet."

    No need to read any further...

  • by CPE1704TKS (995414) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:01PM (#24419355)
    Back in the early 90s, there was this one classmate who was a brilliant programmer. He wrote a pascal program that somehow continuously downloaded porn from newsgroups, ie. alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.*. This was in the days of the 9600 baud modems, and before the Internet was even a household word. I didn't understand at the time what he was doing, or how he was doing it, but enjoyed the fruits of his labor. This was even before video on computers was prevalent, so it was all just images. Actually I remember downloading one "video" that was really just an ascii-fied version of a pr0no. sigh.. the good ol' days.
  • Glory days (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:01PM (#24419357) Homepage Journal
    One thing I love about reading old Usenet posts is how innocent and safe it all seemed before the Internet boom of the 1990s. People often had their full names and even phone numbers in their sigs. You could sign into a worldwide network and still be trading messages in your own little clique of a dozen or so people who shared an interest.

    Then Eternal Spetember [wikipedia.org] happened, and chased most of the decent discussion to quieter and more moderated email lists and web forums.

    Usenet's current status as a haven for spam and pirated binar^H^H^H NOTHING ELSE is a far cry from what it used to mean to a lot of people.
  • Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snarfies (115214) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:01PM (#24419359) Homepage

    From TFA: "It's the porn that's putting nails in Usenet's coffin."

    That would seem to fly in the face of everything I know about both human nature and the internet.

    For me, the reasons my (once extensive) Usenet usage dropped off was 1) insane amounts of spam, and 2) ease of use of torrents (at least with regards to binaries).

  • I'm speechless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:04PM (#24419427)
    Wow, I don't even know what to say to this. This is probably the most stupid, irritating and infuriating article I've ever not read.

    Mind boggling. USENET. Dead. It doesn't even need an explanation as to why it's retarded, at least not to someone who has interesting (technical) discussions there on a regular basis.

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:04PM (#24419429)

    Usenet is alive and quite well. Actually I was on it this morning (before I read this article).
    The fact that less-informed internet users don't generally know about it is IMHO a good thing.

  • by Oloryn (3236) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:06PM (#24419487)
    "Imminent Death of the Net predicted. Film at 11."
  • Isn't it ironic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mononoke (88668) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:08PM (#24419533) Homepage Journal
    This show of force by the morality police is actually going to help the pornographers make more money. How? Virtually all of the pornographic images posted to the .binaries groups were stolen from pay-to-view pornography sites, thus devaluing the images. Some of those who have had their 'free' source cut off will spend what it takes to continue their viewing habits.

    Prohibition didn't work then, and it still doesn't work.

  • Irksome summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Verdatum (1257828) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:11PM (#24419593)
    I wish there was some indication in the summary that this isn't really news. It's just a lamentation of the bygone days of Usenet. The details about ISPs dropping alt.* have already been repeatedly reported on /.

    As with all the other stories on this: Boo-hoo, ISPs aren't giving away free usenet. If you really want it, find a 3rd party usenet server. If my ISP took away email, I wouldn't notice because I use a different address. Verizon took away my usenet and I didn't notice, because I use a 3rd party usenet server.

    And again if you haven't read it in the comments of previous postings on this story, a 3rd party usenet server is practically REQUIRED for anonymous viewing/posting of the illicit content they are trying to prevent. The pedos all sign up with offshore providers and pay for it with anonymously mailed money-orders, and access it through anonymizing proxies. The ones who don't are quickly and easily arrested with a single warrant to the ISP. The smart ones, who survive, and are thus the big-time posters, are not and can not be prevented in this manner.

    alt.binaries.* isn't killed by ISPs, it's killed by spam and superior communication mechanisms.
  • by fprintf (82740) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:13PM (#24419649) Journal

    Don't bother reading the article. It is a non-interesting opinion/blog piece with very little supporting data.

    My own little anecdote, I was on usenet (rec.windsurfing) earlier today. If it wasn't for the overwhelming spam, I'd continue to use some of the other groups as the people who are left are a pretty committed and knowledgable group.

  • 2 points (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:15PM (#24419657) Homepage Journal

    1. the government anti-child porn crusade did not kill usenet. alt.binaries bloat, child porn included, killed usenet

    2. if the government is more precise in what they shut down (ie, if they shut down just alt.binaries), then the effect will be counterintuitive: usenet can experience a rebirth

    it wouldn't be that hard to remove all encoded material from usenet. just set up a simple rule and restrict by size. once you do that, and usenet becomes text only again, usenet can be reborn to satisfy what made it so great in the first place. its social networking lite

  • Just a bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:18PM (#24419723) Journal
    TFA doesn't say Usenet is dead, just that it's past its best. It says:

    It's hard to completely kill off something as totally decentralized as Usenet; as long as two servers agree to share the NNTP protocol, it'll continue on in some fashion. But the Usenet I mourn is long gone, anyway, or long-transformed into interlocking comments on LiveJournals and the forums boards on tech-support Web sites.

  • by killmenow (184444) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:22PM (#24419771)
    Hell, Gopher [jumpjet.info] isn't even dead.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:28PM (#24419871) Homepage

    Usenet is doing quite well. The programming-related newsgroups are in fine shape. "comp.lang.python", "comp.lang.javascript", and "comp.databases.mysql" have heavy traffic from knowledgeable people, including developers of the underlying systems. It's much faster to see the day's updates on Usenet than to page through the inflated dreck on a half dozen PHP-based forum systems.

    I was a bit disappointed when the C++ standards committee moved their discussions off USENET, but that committee isn't getting anywhere anyway.

  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:34PM (#24419983) Homepage Journal

    This bloke isn't mourning Usenet, he's mourning the end of the September that Never Ended.

    Usenet's biggest problems really started when AOL joined Usenet. The other ISPs followed on from that... people said that September ended when AOL left... not so, it won't end until the last big ISP is gone. Then maybe it'll be time for Usenet 2.0...

  • It's not dead (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 (933028) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @01:46PM (#24420227)

    It's resting (sorry, had to).

    But more seriously, where's the #1 forum to discuss C programming? comp.lang.c. Where's the #1 forum to discuss DSP? comp.dsp, so much that other DSP "forums" only provide an interface to it. Where's the #1 spot to tell people your new theory as to how FTL travel is possible using hidden dimensions in the aether? sci.physics.

    So you see, it's not dead, or even resting, some of its branches died, some others are still thriving.

  • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:10PM (#24420637) Homepage Journal

    If we wanted to don our tinfoil hats, we could come up with an alternative reason for killing Usenet, instead of kiddy porn or the mafiAA.

    Usenet may be one of the few remaining places on the Internet that might pretend to have First Ammendment protections. Here at Slashdot there are discussion forums, but Slashdot has some form of control/culpability for them despite any disclaimers. If I were to post the Secrets of Scientology here, the Church of Scientology would certainly be after me, but they'd first go after Slashdot to get those secrets removed. (Of course then they're inviting the Streisand Effect, and they'd have to remember the Wayback Machine, but I'm sure they'd try.) But the essence is that Slashdot is a commercial entity hosting contributed content on its servers. The same can be said about pretty much any weblog out there.

    The same cannot be said of Usenet. There is no single choke point for Usenet, like there is for a weblog. There is no single point to send a C&D letter to. Furthermore, it's fully possible that the author on Usenet is carefully anonymous, and is therefore untracable. Even finding the original feedpoint may be problematic, and require serious geek assistance.

    On the other hand...

    I was there on "Green Card Day". I remember seeing it the first time, then seeing it again in the next group that I followed, then again and again.... There may be something inherently unworkable about mixing anonymity with complete freedom speech. I suspect our founding fathers thought that we'd use our free speech more wisely than I do. I still believe that it is at times important to be anonymous, while at the same time retaining first ammendment protection, but I also believe that claiming those dual rights is FAR more important than Viagra or Nigerian bank accounts. I have no idea what a solution might be, other than to make some "cost of anonymity" great enough to prevent spam, but have no idea how to do that.

  • by bryansj (89051) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:16PM (#24420751)
    This is just resetting USENET so that the first two rules are back in place. Move along please.
  • by moxley (895517) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:42PM (#24421187)

    What a horrible article with a sensationalistic title. The only good thing I can say about that article is that at least the writer understands the technical aspects of usenet, unlike some of the articles I have seen lately. Claming "Usetnet is dead" is what makes him an idiot. I hope usenet is dead..FOR HIM.

    I love the newsgroups and have used all aspects of them daily since the mid 90s. When I discovered binaries in 1998 I couldn't believe how ingenious it was. I have had a premium news service for the past 5 years and it's the one bill I pay every month with joy...Usenet is not dead - it's only gotten better. But they WANT to kill it.

    If the ISP want to discontinue them they're stupid. It only bothers me in so much as I feel that is the first step in a campaign to ruin them, but due to the way usenet works, it would be a difficult task and would basically require removing all freedom on the internet (which is something these groups want, that is their goal - make no mistake about it - the corporate/governmental groups that are pushing this sort of thing want to turn the net into some bastardized bowlderized version of a three-way cross between early AOL, the home shopping network and MSNBC. Fuck that.

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