History of Usenet

By: Fast Usenet on: November 3rd, 2010

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Usenet was born approximately 3 decades ago, in 1979. It all began as a small communication network between a few universities in the United States used to trade information, news, and research results. It has grown from a simple design without an official structure, to a logical network linking millions of people and computers to over 120,000 different newsgroups and millions of bytes of articles. What began as two or three sites on a single network in 1979, expanded to 15 in 1980, to 150 in 1981, to 400 in 1982, to millions in 2010.

Who Created Usenet

Two Duke University graduate students in North Carolina, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, came up with the idea of hooking computers together to exchange information with the UNIX community. The first news software, called ‘A’ News was built by Steve Bellovin, another Duke student. As the news volume increased exponentially, the limited functionality of ‘A’ News was replaced by a newer version called ‘B’ News in 1981, developed by Mark Horton and Matt Glickman. ‘B’ News was followed by an improved version naturally called ‘C’ News in 1987 which was created by Geoff Collyer and Henry Spencer. Nowadays, there are numerous software packages for news management. Users can access the newsgroups and their content using a constantly increasing number of newsreader applications.

Exchange of Ideas to a Place Where You Can Find It All

Early Usenet users had one thing in common – their passion to discuss a broad range of topics and ideas from politics, science and technology to philosophy, science fiction, literature, or music. People would meet in various newsgroups to freely voice their opinions, ask for advice, and interact with other users who share the same interests. This trend has not changed much but the functionality and resourcefulness of Usenet has increased tremendously. Not only can people have meaningful discussions and find extensive answers to their questions today, but they can have all the music, movies, images, and software they ever dreamed of. Usenet has become the place to find it all!

Freedom of Speech across National Borders

The very nature of Usenet has always been inter-human communication among a large group of users. In its simplest form, Usenet represents democracy, or the right to share almost everything that could be possibly shared from a computer. Most of the material in Usenet is contributed by the same people who actively read Usenet. Thus, the Usenet audience chooses the content and subject matter to be thought about, presented, and debated.

In this way, Usenet is a worldwide unrestricted access forum for debate and informational exchange where many sides of an issue come into view. Rather than being force-fed by an uncontrollable power, the participants set the tone and emphasis of the different groups in Usenet. Without the time and effort put in by its users, Usenet would not be the democratic and resourceful informational forum it is today.

Usenet Today

Rumor has it that back in the early days, all of the messages in Usenet on any given day could be read in twenty minutes and the original design estimated a maximum traffic volume of 2 articles a day! Fortunately, Usenet has evolved greatly throughout the years. The modern Usenet is a never-ending collection of thousands of online discussion groups across the globe about subjects ranging from Astrology to Zoology. In addition to text messages containing questions and answers, most newsgroups also host a variety of files that can be conveniently shared among the Usenet community.