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What is the current status of Usenet? What I mean is, do people still use it often? Is it as big as it once was? Basically, what's happened to it in the last two decades or so?

I understand that Google Groups has something to do with it, but I'm still confused on the matter.

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closed as too localized by Tom Wijsman, random Oct 26 '11 at 23:15

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It's not quite October. It's around September 28th, though. Please help the cause and spread the word that Usenet is dead. –  Richard Hoskins Aug 21 '09 at 14:15

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Google Groups hosts an archive of the Usenet that goes back to 1981. This archive includes what was formerly known as DejaNews which was purchased by Google in 2001. Groups is a web gateway that gives you access to all current Usenet newsgroup activity as well as Google's own proprietary groups. The two appear the same but Google created groups are not part of the Usenet. A tad confusing at first.

Usenet traffic continues to grow but this is primarily binary in nature. Lots of warez and porn. A full feed is currently over 4.5 TB per day. The discussion newsgroups that I used to frequent back in the 80's and 90's have mostly fallen into disuse and are clogged with spam. Sad in a way but time marches on.

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I got a decent feed back last fall, after several years of deprivation. Sadly, none of my old haunts were remotely what they used to be. But I shall raise a glass to the ghosts of deserted groups. Cheers. –  dmckee Aug 22 '09 at 1:10

Outside of Stack Overflow, Usenet is still a good and active resource for programming-related topics (comp.lang.c, for example).

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still lots of good groups out there like alt.binaries.movies.divx, the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.* hierarchy, etc.

Worth checking out is easynews.com, which offers a free trial so you can see for yourself what's going on.

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I disagree with tnorthcutt somewhat. Yes, authorities are trying to put a lid on the wild illegal activities that are going on in there. So the volume of these dubious channels will go down while using controlled news-servers.

However, there is a vast number of perfectly legal channels which can be very interesting. Looking at the very Wikipedia article that was posted by tnorthcutt, it's evident, that the volume is still growing. Exponentially! At least it was still the case between 2006 and 2009. The graph is a bit imprecise for a better conclusion.

On the usability side, the whole nature of usenet being pretty much plain-text only makes it very attractive. There are no annoying blinking advertisements. Most usenet readers make reading the articles really comfortable. Much easier in fact than many online forums.

You are correct that google groups (from hereon abbreviated as "gg") has done "something" to usenet. With gg, everyone can now easily access the groups from anywhere. With a somewhat familiar interface. Even though I still prefer a dedicated news reader to the gg interface, it's undeniable advantage is that it works pretty well even through corporate firewalls.

Yet again, a reason why usenet is now accessible by an even wider audience.

However, groups created in the gg "universe" will not appear on the regular usenet servers (at least not as far as I know). So it's become a somewhat split "universe". But it could be worse.

As you noted, some ISPs decided to deny access to parts of the usenet hierarchy. How much this will cripple the system, I cannot say. It remains to be seen. But given the wide range of topics, ranging from Gardening over to photography, cooking and gaming, you can find a group on nearly any topic. It would be really a shame if those all disappeared. And given the number of users, the chance is huge that there will be people that take over the ISPs jobs. As it has been seen in some P2P cases. You shut down one access route, and not a month later 10 new systems, sites and whatnot emerge from the cloud.

I am not particularly worried that usenet will disappear. Yes, it may lose some momentum, but it's here to stay. Too many geeks feel at home in there. There are already usenet servers which operate independent from ISPs. Some free of charge, some not.

If you're only in for the discussions, than go ahead and use Google Groups. If only to get to know the system. If you have set up you lair in a particular group, feel comfortable there, and have access to an NNTP server you might want to look into a more sophisticated reader. There's many good free ones out there.

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Of course, there are much more accessible, user-friendly, and free sites for gardening, photography, cooking and gaming ;) –  BlueRaja Oct 25 '11 at 20:02

Before google, there was dejanews. deja was bought by google. If you go to dejanews.com you are still redirected to google groups. Google bought all the archives because of the invaluable knowledge contained in the usenet archives, but as for fresh content, it's basically dead. The idea behind the newsgroups was to have a fully visible discussion environment for a specific topic. newsgroups filled the void of mailing lists, blogs, Q/A sites and file sharing during a time where traffic was low and men were men. Once that gap was filled, the huge amount of band required to keep newsgroups syncronized was the nail in the coffin for the technology. I remember that we had a news server on our LUG machine. Every night it had to synchronize 3 gigabytes of data through a 256 kbps connection (I am talking 1997), and we left out all the binaries groups.

So, usenet is dead for the future, but very, very important for the past it contains. It's archaeology, and an invaluable heritage.

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It is definitely not used as much in it's traditional role, however it is increasingly being used for binary content with providers like giganews filling in the gap left by ISP's no longer providing access to Usenet.

Google groups covers both Usenet (minus the binary content) and mailing lists, however users can only create new groups using mailing lists.

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According to Wikipedia (bottom of that section), many ISPs no longer provide access to Usenet, so it's almost certainly not used as much as it once was.

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