New Frontiers: Net Neutrality and The Internet’s Best Kept Secret

The World Wide Web has never been entirely safe, but it’s becoming a scarier place by the day. The recent rollback of net neutrality rights has put the ball firmly in the court of massive corporations and internet service providers (ISPs), who now have the right to turn our preferred digital spaces into capitalist profiteer playgrounds.

While ISP throttling is still illegal under the shreds of net neutrality laws remaining, ISP “fast lanes” are not: ISPs now have the right to give services that pay their premium service fast lanes, slowing down other services in comparison. When you leverage this with the corporate scramble to farm data in recent years, with the extent of the data collected (and the lengths to which these businesses are willing to violate our privacy) being revealed through several extensive leaks, the utopia of the World Wide Web is quickly becoming a dystopia.

With the internet no longer being a space where customers can explore freely, consumers have begun to do everything they can to protect their data and their privacy while expanding their digital freedoms: utilizing a virtual private server (VPS), jailbreaking their devices, and even jumping ship to other networks. One such network which few have heard of is Usenet, a network that predates the World Wide Web. Little do many know that Usenet is a thriving network with hundreds of organically formed communities discussing their interests.

Usenet is a closely guarded secret, the last bastion of the paradise the internet used to be: here’s everything you need to know to get the keys to the kingdom.

Knowing Your History: Where Usenet Comes From

Usenet is an entirely separate network from the World Wide Web, predating its invention by about ten years. It actually started as a way for academics to share information with one another, being developed by students from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill and, in the beginning, only connecting three computers between the two universities. The students developed a system to exchange information using UNIX-to-UNIX copy protocol, aiming to make sharing information and files between the two institutions easier. Over time, however, the Usenet grew into an entirely different beast, with a new protocol (the network news transfer protocol, or NNTP) making it possible for the network to expand exponentially.

Today, Usenet has the capacity to host millions of users and has become a sprawling, gigantic database of discussion groups and video and audio files.

How and Why You Should Use Usenet

Usenet essentially works like many of the social media sites you now frequent, especially if you happen to visit Reddit every so often. Comprised of thousands of message boards that relate to every known interest (and with an easy application and approval process, should you want to create a board of your own), these boards, called newsgroups, are places where users can interact with one another, share common interests, and download audio and video files safely and securely.

In order to access the network, you need a safe, reliable newsreader, which is Usenet’s version of a browser like Safari or Google. Once you have that browser and have successfully connected to the network, it’s just a matter of navigating to newsgroups you happen to be interested in and beginning to participate.

Because these newsgroups are entirely user-created and run, with as much or as little moderation as desired, Usenet is a much more organic internet environment built upon collaboration. Chances are, any targeted ads or corporate incursions on your internet access will be minimal if occurring at all, and the way the network is designed makes it easy to share user-generated content, contributing to the further development of healthy, supportive online communities.

Community Without Corporations

If you’re looking for an organic, democratic environment that parallels the original state of the internet, Usenet might be the perfect network for you. Don’t hesitate: find the newsreader of your choice and start creating and sharing your content today.