If you’re old enough to remember the days before the internet, chances are you’ve heard of Usenet. While most everyone today knows how the Internet works (or has some idea of how to use it), years ago, this communication medium was as foreign as a distant galaxy to many people.
Prior to the early ’90s, computers were used mostly by professionals in science and academia. Sure, home computer systems like Steve Jobs’ Macintosh and the Apple II were present in homes, schools, and businesses across the globe, but the average everyday Joe had little working knowledge of computer systems themselves.
The one exception to this rule was the users who frequented Usenet. Since 1979, Usenet has been online and has enabled users to chat and share information over a secure network.
Today, this network is still in use, and has distinct advantages over our modern Internet network, though it got its start in a digital relic from the not too distant past. To access Usenet, you simply need to find a Usenet service provider.
If you remember the 90’s and up to the early 2000s, chances are you stumbled upon a chat room or two. These were the interesting corners of the Internet that grabbed the attention of users with hopes of meeting someone from overseas, connecting with like minds, or sometimes a user just went in out of curiosity.
Like the Internet, Usenet predates the modern chatroom. In fact, many would agree that Usenet was the original chatroom that laid the architecture and protocols for the chat rooms that sprouted up in the early to mid-’90s.
The fact is, Usenet became rather popular in the 1980s because this was the way computer savvy people, especially students, communicated online. With this in mind, the users who had been on Usenet faithfully during the ’80s were used to the etiquette from other users, as it was mostly a place for academics and professionals.
Just to put it plainly, a newsgroup is a chatroom. They might have repackaged and rebranded the name, but the two function in exactly the same fashion as in years past. However, there have been a few modifications that have helped to make newsgroups more user-friendly and safe.
Each newsgroup comes with its own Charta. The Charta is basically like a Charter, which exists for the purposes of a Usenet newsgroup to explicitly state its purpose and topic. This is largely in place to deter anyone who would come to the group and post irrelevant subject matter.
The Charta may also contain rules of etiquette and how a user is allowed to post.
Many newsgroups within Usenet do not allow for the use of HTML formatted language which is the common format for users on the Internet. Some Chartas specifically prohibit this use, while others allow it.
A Charta also typically comes with a FAQ section, where any potential user can find a host of information regarding how and what to post, to sections on how a newsgroup is moderated.
While the Charta is in place for the purposes stated, many other newsgroups are moderated. This means that there is either one person or a team of individuals in charge of filtering out unwanted or inappropriate content within the newsgroup.
With these two measures in place, it becomes essential for any new user to fully read the Charta and comply with community moderators within the newsgroup in order to have the best experience.
While Usenet still doesn’t have the popularity it once saw in its heyday of the 1980s, more and more users are beginning to use this platform to get away from echo chambers or image-laden and insensitively saturated content that is prevalent on the Internet today.
Usenet also offers a higher degree of security when downloading files… a very attractive quality, considering the widespread occurrences of computer viruses.