An Introduction to Usenet

If you’ve never heard of Usenet, then you’re not alone. But at the same time, if you’ve never heard of Usenet—you really should learn about it now! It’s an incredibly useful tool that can end up benefiting your life in many ways.

Even if you haven’t heard of Usenet, you’ve likely at least heard of BitTorrent. In fact, you probably haven’t only heard of BitTorrent—chances are you’ve used it at one point or another! But what if there was another way to accomplish the same things that you do with BitTorrent, but faster, easier, safer, and maybe even with more success?

Drop that torrent habit and replace it with Usenet—a more effective method of getting the files you need!

What Is Usenet?

Usenet has been around since the early days of the internet, serving as a blissful, unregulated refuge for all types of files. That may not have been the original intention, but it is what the medium eventually evolved into—but more on that later.

When it comes to seeking out your downloads from Usenet, why again would you use it over your current torrenting methods?  Well, for one thing, it’s fast.  Don’t let the fact that it’s old trick you into thinking that your downloads will be dragging their feet.  Your downloads immediately run full speed ahead, maxing out your broadband connection.  Once you’ve seen how quickly your files end up in your downloads folder, you’ll never want to go back to torrents again.  Download speeds aren’t the only thing that make Usenet fast—it’s also usually the first place that files show up, meaning you can get access to them earlier.

The Rise of Usenet
Despite having been around for a long time—since 1979, in fact—many people today have not heard of Usenet or adopted it into their lives. The protocol began with the development of “netnews” by two students from Duke University. Little did they know at the time, but their creation would evolve through a series of improvements to one of the Internet’s most useful tools.

By taking advantage of the Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol, also known as the UUCP, Usenet was able to become what it is today. This protocol serves as a distributed method of copying files between different computers and was built alongside the ARPANET—the network that today, we call the “Internet”.  Of course, back then, it was nothing close to the Internet that we know and love today, but it was well on its way to being something great—as was Usenet.

When Usenet became Internet-compatible, the initial developers of the idea developed software to be available to work with any Unix host. From there, it became one of the most popular ways for early Internet users to communicate with one another.

How a Communication Tool Transformed into a File Sharing Medium
The creation of Usenet was formed from the idea that computers were steadily growing to become sophisticated enough to hold conversations—and plenty of conversations were happening around the world.  Think of it like the original Reddit—but decentralized, and with no true owner.

In addition, the fact that Usenet was rooted in UUCP also made it an effective way to share peer-to-peer files.  While it was designed to share text alone, programmers continued to expand the technology.  University of California Berkeley’s graduate student Mary Ann Horton, for example, was heavily involved in the building of the early UUCP protocols.  She aided in creating a connection between the protocol and the rest of the Internet.  By improving on the original design of Truscott and Ellis, Horton further shaped Usenet into what it is today with advancements like UUEncode, which functioned similar to zip file formats.

The Fight Against Usenet
Of course, with the lawlessness that comes with early Internet communication mediums with file sharing capabilities, Usenet became something of a place with no order.  Illicit content and copyrighted content were always within reach.  Once it became such, however, reigning it in wasn’t something the medium was designed for.  The responsibility for preventing the distribution of illegal content was placed squarely on the shoulders of the Internet service providers.

While it was only a small group of Usenet’s population causing problems, their voices were loud. As a result, ISPs could decide not to carry newsgroups at all.  Thousands of these newsgroups were often victims of this decision even though they had done nothing wrong. However, these changes weren’t enough to kill off Usenet completely.  The medium was hard to ignore.  Spaces like GigaNews, NewsDemon and even Google Groups even host uncensored newsgroups to this day.

In its prime, Usenet was a hub of culture for users.  In a number of ways, Usenet serves as a sort of gravel road on an Internet that is mostly paved over and kept cleaned, maintained, and renovated.

Today, it is no longer a place that you might end up accidentally, but you might find yourself there intentionally with a specific set of goals.  It’s still a place where people turn for free things and better accessibility.  It allows for downloads that can even be faster than using BitTorrent—a file sharing procedure you’re probably more familiar with.

If you’re a user of BitTorrent, however, you might be surprised to learn that those looking for certain files may find more luck on Usenet than BitTorrent, because it’s faster and unregulated. However, interestingly enough, that’s not at all what the space was originally intended for!

Your Easy-to-Use File Resource
Usenet is a download junkie’s wonderland.  However, it has a persistent reputation for being difficult to use, so most people don’t even try.  But the truth is, Usenet isn’t difficult at all to navigate!  You just need to know how to get started.

Let’s start with getting the bad news out of the way.  While some ISPs still host Usenet binaries today, they come with bandwidth restrictions, missing content, and other issues that make them all but unusable.  However, for the full throttled, unlimited access you’re looking for, you can get it for around $15 monthly. You can also try a free trial from a place like Giganews, or purchase a one-off download pass that’s good for downloads of a few gigabytes. Once you choose a provider and get access, the downloading part is simple.

Your first step is to choose a client.  Free clients are available, like SABnzbd, or Hellanzb for Mac OS users.  Download and install your client of choice, start it up, and set up a server name and your login information.  From there, access your folders and choose where you want your downloaded files to end up on your computers.  You’ll also want to select a “watched” folder so your client will know what you want to be downloaded.

From there, leave your client running while you explore Usenet. However, Usenet is a bit of a mess to explore without a good search engine. You can use a free one like, Newzleech, or Binsearch.  Download NZB’s from them into the directory you marked as “watched”.  Then, return to your SABnzbd queue, where you should then see your download in progress!  You should be able to search for your desired files, and download them at lightning fast speeds!  SABnzbd will take care of all the hard work for you, like .RAR extracting and rejoining.  After your download, your files should be ready to go!


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