By Meghna Deshraj

September 6, 2021

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What is Usenet?

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Usenet is a social communication platform that allows its users to discuss, search, and securely download various topics that include text, pictures, videos, and more. This isn’t the latest social media platform that you can access through a website or an app. In fact, Usenet isn’t new at all. This early version of social media has been around for over 40 years— long before the internet was invented!

The History of Usenet

Usenet was created in 1979 by Duke University students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis. It may be hard to believe that a social network existed before the internet, but Usenet did. Since there was no internet back then, the creators had to use telephone modems to allow information to be sent back and forth from their computers.

They were successful in their endeavors, so much so that throughout the 1980s, several college campuses had the program available for use for their students. And even with the emergence of the internet in the 1990s, Usenet never went away and is still here today.

What is Usenet used for?

Usenet was originally created for scholars to send and receive information, as well as discuss academic topics. Today, you can still do all of this and more!


Newsgroups are similar to discussion forums, and this is where you’ll be able to discuss information such as news, ideas, and other topics. All newsgroups are themed, labeled as anything from academic subjects to pop culture topics. There are now over 120,000 newsgroups on Usenet covering every topic under the sun. Within these newsgroups, you’ll be able to find both text and binary files.

Binary Files

Binary files are any files that aren’t text files. These can be audio files, photos, software files, and videos. To find and securely download these files from newsgroups, all you have to do is search for any topic of your choice by using the newsreader. Basically, everything you can do on the common social media sites, you can also do on Usenet as well.


Because Usenet is not an actual website that can be accessed through popular search engines like Safari or Google Chrome, it comes with its very own version called a newsreader. This is where you’ll type in whatever it is that you’re looking for and it will direct you to newsgroups containing an enormous amount of user-generated content of text and binary files.

Binary Retention

Usenet also has an “archive” known as its binary retention. Depending on which provider you use, the archive can go back several months to several years. This means that you can have access to content that was posted on Usenet years back.

How do I get Usenet?

If you already have an internet service provider (ISP), you’re just one step away from getting access to Usenet. Like mentioned before, Usenet is not a website or a mobile app. It can be accessed through a Usenet service provider, plus, newsreader software to be able to search Usenet and find the content you’re looking for.

Some service providers include a newsreader free with your subscription purchase, while others require you to purchase it separately. And since it is a subscription service, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best deal from your Usenet service provider, with perks like unlimited secure downloads, a decent number of connections (how much content you can securely download at one time), and a high level of binary retention.


Usenet was a new phenomenon in its beginning stages and has evolved into a powerhouse for obtaining useful information. It actually supplies you with more unique, creative, and uncensored (but original) content that you’re not likely to find anywhere else on the internet. Looking into Usenet is worth a try because you’ll be introduced to a new and exciting area of social networking.

Photo by Sigmund

About the author 

Meghna Deshraj

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