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How to Get Started With Usenet?

Written by, 16best Team

Updated November, 14, 2023

Usenet, the original social networking site, has been around since the early 1980s; it was originally created in 1979 by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, two Duke University graduate students who wanted to connect to the fledgling Unix community. From there, it has grown into a venerable mainstay of the internet, hosting millions of articles on thousands of topics, ranging from philosophy to computer science and more. 

The network centers around the Big 8 Newsgroups – computers, humanities, news, recreation, science, social discussions, talk, and miscellaneous – with numerous other, smaller newsgroups encapsulated within these. Of those other newsgroups, business, biology, and education are also major players. One can access diverse viewpoints and unique news unavailable on other platforms, provided directly by other users, without censorship. This decentralized and spirited community remains one of the top networks on the internet over 40 years after its inception: quite impressive, given that there are over 200 million active websites available to all. 

However, Usenet isn’t quite like modern-day social media, which is part of its charm; you’ll need to become familiar with its workings and utilize resources to help you connect, which we’ll discuss in today’s guide.

First, Find a Usenet Provider

A renowned Usenet provider is your access point to Usenet: you can’t simply log onto it like Facebook or Twitter. While Usenet itself has a centralized server cluster, this is not what you, a user, will access; instead, you’ll rely on the decentralized provider network, which creates the infrastructure necessary to download articles from Usenet. 

There are many providers scattered across the world, beholden to the privacy and data security laws of their specific country. For example, if you choose a provider based in the Netherlands, their servers follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rather than the more nebulous and jumbled data privacy laws of the United States. You should become familiar with the laws that your provider adheres to when selecting a provider, as well as consider their subscription services, download speeds, and data caps.

Select a Usenet Newsreader

In addition to a provider, you will need a newsreader, also known as a Usenet client. While you’ll get access through your provider, you need a way to download the information available from the provider and read it. 

You can think of this as analogous to choosing an internet service provider and then downloading a news app that lets you access the information you’d like to find. Many providers also have their own newsreader, making it easy for you to get started with newsgroups. You can subscribe to newsgroups to have everything available there downloaded when you’re ready to read them, and then scroll through at your leisure, exploring all the information available in that group.

Set Up an Indexer

Indexers work like a search engine for Usenet, helping you find the discussions you would like to read and download them. While some are free, most cost a small fee per month so that you can continue to find information you’d like to read. Just as with any search engine, you’ll input terms into the indexer, and it will provide results of articles that match your needs. This saves you the need to pore over thousands of newsgroup pages to find exactly what you want.

Many indexers will let you save searches, just as you can save searches to get a digest on Google or Apple. You’ll set your parameters on the indexer, which will tell you when content that matches your interests is available for download. For example, you might set up an indexer for the term “cave diving.” When the indexer finds an article that mentions cave diving, it will alert you so that you can download that specific thread. This lets you find information you’re curious about that might not be present in the newsgroups you already follow, helping to enrich your Usenet experience and match with the articles that matter most to you.

Usenet Is a Unique Internet Experience That Is Easy to Join

With younger social networks, everything is available to you at the push of a button – but you also sacrifice your privacy and data security, being at the whims of a single corporation. Usenet provides you with greater protections and a strong commitment to privacy while also enabling you to explore diverse viewpoints and read about topics you may never have considered before. 

The variety and privacy make Usenet a robust and fascinating user experience and though there are a few more steps involved than signing up for Twitter or Facebook, its security makes it well worth a look. You can be a part of the original social network, which is both a treasured part of Internet history and a vibrant, well-respected source of user-generated information.