Forums Page?

Perry E. Metzger perry at
Tue Feb 20 20:19:07 CET 2007

"mathew davis" <someoneinjapan at> writes:
> It's funny that you mention that I am only 24 so I guess I would fit in the
> youngster category.  I don't even know what usenet is.

Usenet was (well, is, but it has been dying for a long time) a global
system in which RFC-822 style messages (same format as email) were
presented to the user in semi-hierarchically structured
"newsgroups". The term "news" was the idiosyncratic name given to said
messages. The messages were distributed by a "flood fill" mechanism
among participating hosts, initially via uucp in the era of dialup and
then later over TCP via the NNTP protocol. Large numbers of "news
readers" were developed, with interesting user interfaces.

Usenet had excellent the feature that it allowed people around the
world to participate in discussions of technical topics without having
to know a priori that the topics existed (since the news reader
allowed you to browse all groups) and without having to specifically
"subscribe then wait" (since you could see messages that had been
posted before you actually "joined"). The bad part was that the flood
fill mechanism means every site in the network has to carry *all*
traffic even if no one locally is reading a particular
topic. Ultimately this architectural issue and the failure to address
it is what killed Usenet -- a decentralized architecture would have
preserved it.

Today, RSS readers somewhat simulate the feel of "newsgroups", but
with serious technical downsides (including polling, and needing to
fetch everything and not just updates every time you do an RSS poll)
and without the interactivity or standardized message format.

"Someday" I'd love to create a next generation Usenet that fixed all
this -- I would distribute only "newsgroup announcements" rather than
the newsgroups themselves, make the topic namespace subdivided by
domain names to eliminate the "global namepsace" problem, and use
a bit-torrent like "centrally tracked but peer to peer distributed"
transfer method to eliminate the need for giant news spools. However,
realistically, I'll never have the month to do the work.

Perry E. Metzger		perry at

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