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Usenet never went away, entirely, but maybe it will be having a little renaissance, as well.

It sorta came back as Reddit. I was a huge Usenet junkie from the first time I saw it, but it eventually turned into 99% binaries and junk. All the interesting discussions in the areas I was involved in went to sites like HN, Metafilter, Reddit, Web-based forums, etc.




And IRC came back as Slack.

It seems like we are going through a period where everything that used to be its own protocol is now recreated using HTTP and JSON.

Hell, it may well be that the web browser has become the new X server.


I don't think IRC went away. More like IRC was an old crusty alcoholic down on its luck, Ms. XMPP (once a cool chick) was having a need-a-pregnancy crisis in middle age, so went to a sperm bank, made some bad jokes about plugins, and wound up getting pregnant. Shortly after that, XMPP met a VC who thought the child was its own. Thus we have the test tube baby called Slack, who takes after its father in capitalist tendencies, and mother in pragmatism.


IRC is still heavily in use in open source development and gaming circles. You can even use it to implement things like Twitch.tv chat. The great thing with open protocols is that everyone can write clients and servers for them.

I've never used Slack but their front page alone is enough for me to turn away. The first two words I see is "Product" and "Pricing". Nothing on the page hints to an open protocol so I guess it is proprietary.


I've never used Slack, so I have no idea why people would use it instead of IRC, but they do have IRC and XMPP gateways available: https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/201727913-Connectin...


Reddit's not the same, though --- it's centralised, for a start.

A really interesting (and probably really hard) project would be a proper decentralised Usenet replacement, with proper identity and reputation control. It might actually be something that blockchains could be good at, if you could avoid the requirement to replicate the entire database on every machine.

It might be feasible to have a single blockchain for identity and reputation, and then have each 'newsgroup' have its own, referring to it; that way I should be able to reduce the disk and bandwidth footprint to something reasonable.

Coming up with an appropriate costing system so that spammers were priced out without also requiring real money to actually use the thing would be the trickiest part, I think.


Usenet was arguably more centralised, limited, and vastly smaller in scale that Reddit. (I know whereof I speak: I was there.)

I've been trying to come up with some metrics for the size of "traditional" Usenet -- Big 8 hierarchy, say, early 1990s. Gene "spaff" Spafford thought that 50k - 500k users was probably in the right ballpark.

Note that to gain access you needed to be student or faculty at a research university, or work for one of a handful of tech companies (and almost certainly within their engineering divisions), or for a government agency with access. Very limited independent options existed.

The Usenet Cabal who managed things, such as they were managed, was about the same size as Reddit's technical staff, if that.

And the system proved highly vulnerable not only to spam and crap, but to users not acculturated into the system itself, and behavior protocols. The Eternal September was a thing for a reason.


When Reddit was suffering through its censorship/Ellen Pao phase, I couldn't help but think what everyone really wanted was usenet. Decentralized, not owned by anyone, not censored, use any client you want, be anonymous, etc.


I think what really killed Usenet in the US was Andrew Cuomo's crusade against it. During the period from 1993 to 2008, I had Usenet from most of the ISPs I used. The ISPs started pulling the plug in 2008 or 2009. I was using text groups up until then.

These days, I've found a free provider for my text group access, of which there are several.




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