Introduction to Usenet
You may have never heard of Usenet before. To put it simply, it’s faster, more-reliable, and more private than traditional torrent websites. Plus, accessing it is cheaper than getting takeout once a month.
First of all, what exactly is Usenet?
Usenet is older than the web. That’s why it’s so reliable. The concept of Usenet was the foundation for the Internet’s basic structure back in 1979 when it was simply a system for government research facilities to share large files. It was just a bulletin board system. Each university that was part of Usenet hosted a news server, and access was free for all students and teachers. It was free and well-appreciated until it first went commercial. The news server administrators had to crack down heavily by deleting illegal content uploaded by users who were taking the wrong kind of advantage of the system back in the 1990s, so the university founders backed out of hosting it. As the Internet evolved, Usenet faced new kinds of competition and continued to develop and improve.
You can’t name one provider, server ,or company in charge of Usenet because it’s a network shared on thousands of servers or more worldwide. Each server is a mirror, reflecting all of the content of the others so that they can work independently of each other. You could think of it like a massive database that’s continuously migrating.
Today, Usenet operates independently of major Internet-service providers, university servers, and public organizations. A few Internet service providers may offer Usenet access as a subcontract through another third-party Usenet provider. Usenet still hosts discussion groups and an incredibly huge library of files to download. According to Wikipedia, users uploaded 27.8 terabytes of new files every day in 2017. While it is not a free service, there are free trials available and very low fees just so that its commercial suppliers can keep it well-maintained with high-quality content. You can store and download any kind of file you wish with Usenet servers. You do not download files from other users like you would on BitTorrent, for example. Instead, you download files directly from the Usenet servers to get faster, more secure downloads.
Does Usenet have restrictions in some countries?
Most Usenet servers have their home in the United States, making Usenet ideal for most Americans. In truth, almost everyone in any country with open Internet access can join Usenet. Do be aware though that in many countries, administrators can use automated tools to remove content if the copyright owners of that content request it, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its variations. As long as you aren’t uploading or downloading content that violates copyright laws or is otherwise illegal, then you should have no trouble accessing or uploading files for years to come. Just like with torrents, some Internet providers attempt to block access because people download a lot of content, but it is easy to get around this by changing one setting with Usenet. SSL encryption, which is included almost universally, also helps with this.
Why would you prefer Usenet instead of torrents or other platforms?
Download speeds are ridiculously faster on Usenet. As long as you have a good Internet service provider, then you can download files at the top speed that your provider will allow. This drastic speed increase is possible because it connects to many servers at once.
On most torrent websites, you have to deal with the frustration of waiting for other users to seed the content you’re searching for. On Usenet, because it doesn’t rely on individual seeders, all your content is available immediately.
It also has more security than peer-to-peer torrents. When you join, you have no obligation to upload anything or seed any files for other users to download either. This is a major advantage over torrents because you don’t open up your computer to any other computers that could be transmitting viruses. Usenet only connects your computer to its secure server, and most providers offer downloads with SSL encryption.
How do you start downloading with Usenet?
If you’re unsure about how much you’ll be downloading, then it’s a good idea to start out with a Usenet provider who offers a free trial. Then you can compare providers easily. You can find out which features matter the most to you during your trial and use that experience to upgrade to the right premium Usenet provider later.
- Pick a provider who offers enough of a variety of files that you’ll want to access.
The providers with the biggest libraries of files to download will advertise file-retention rates of at least 300 days or a year. Different providers offer different monthly download limits too, so pick one that matches whatever Internet connection plan you already have. Sometimes people new to Usenet become so excited about how much they can download that they max out their bandwidth caps too fast, so remember to pace yourself.
- Download your newsreader application to search for files.
Your Usenet provider will give you a username and password, which you will then use with a Usenet newsreader application to find the files you want to download. These applications are mostly free. You can work with whatever newsreader app that your Usenet provider gives you, and some have easy-to-use interfaces that are Internet-based and work well.
- Browse for your downloads.
You can search for files directly by name, or you can subscribe to “newsgroups,” which are lists of related files. You’ll discover that there are more than 110,000 newsgroups that you can access, and it can take some experimentation and a couple of Google searches to find out which groups are worth following. You can unsubscribe from any newsgroups whenever you want. Subscribing doesn’t mean it costs anything, it’s like bookmarking.
Some people feel it’s easier to use “NZB search engines”, and those of you used to using a traditional torrent system will love this setup. Searching for and downloading .NZB files is the equivalent to downloading .torrent files. This system coordinates your newsreader app so that it downloads all the file fragments you need and then reassembles them into your final movie, audio collection, or image library. You can even use a provider that has a web based nzb downloader to do everything from your web browser and not have to install any software.
Once you start downloading, it’s helpful to send the files straight to an encrypted hard drive to give you an extra layer of online security.
If you really love Usenet, then you can even set up your software to automate your downloads. Don’t start playing with these features until you have a good understanding of things first though. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up automatically downloading hundreds of gigabytes way too fast, maxing out your hard drives and your Internet connection before you know what happened.
Automatic downloading works through applications like Sick Beard, SABnzbd, and CouchPotato. You configure the app to receive RSS feeds of new content in your preferred newsgroups or elsewhere. Then, as soon as the new files are available, the app recognizes them and adds them to your download queue. By the time you sit down to look at your computer, you’ll find the saved files are already there with their default file names.
If you encounter incomplete media downloads, then you can download the missing pieces by signing up with multiple providers. It’s not expensive if you pick providers offering block accounts. You only pay for what you download, and only when you download it. Look for a provider who lets you carry over your balance every month to get the most value out of these plans. Do remember though that when you pick different providers to complete files with pieces missing, then you need to research them to make sure they’re actually not using the same Usenet backbone.
Don’t forget this final advice about respecting copyrights when downloading
In a system like Usenet where so many files are available, it’s not always that clear which files are legal for downloading and which ones violate copyright laws. Downloading copyrighted files can put you at risk for legal trouble. However, you’re less at risk on Usenet than you are on torrenting websites because you’re not technically “sharing” any copyrighted material with others by downloading it. On torrent websites, you become a seeder to share files with others just by downloading, which makes you a bigger target for those enforcing copyright laws.