We use the internet in just about every facet of our lives nowadays: we use it to conduct business transactions and communicate with our superiors, we use it to attain degrees and diplomas through remote schooling, and we use it to keep in touch with friends and loved ones that live far, far away. Technology and the internet are so prolific and widely used that the next generation has been born with iPhones and iPads in their hands, using technology to entertain themselves, to learn, and to connect with others from a young age.
The advent of the coronavirus pandemic further pushed our society towards transitioning toward digitally inclusive modes of business, forcing people inside and away from the public: as such, we had to come up with ways to conduct our lives remotely, leading to an even more widespread use of tech in businesses large and small and amongst people young and old.
Yet, few people are aware of how the world they now live in came into being and alternatives to the World Wide Web that may provide solutions to problems that are now developing in response to the Web’s popularity. As the usage of the Web became more widespread, corporations found ways to convert spaces that were used to express people’s creativity and for their edification into virtual billboards, paying people to represent their products and encouraging the marketing-moded mentality we’re seeing break out across the Web today. The scramble to go viral, the desire to become an influencer – these are all symptoms of a disease brought about by corporate America’s interference in digital spaces. Other networks, however, are considered obsolete by most marketing departments and remain free of this cancer.
If any of that has struck a chord with you, you might want to consider taking a look at one of the last surviving networks of the pre-Web area: Usenet.
Origins: Before the Dawn of the Web
Usenet was one of many fledgling networks that sprung up roughly around ten years before the Web was brought into being. Conceived and executed by three college students at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill, Usenet was an experiment in sharing information between academic institutions, a network that used UNIX-to-UNIX copy protocol to pass files and messages between no more than three computers. Patching with existing frameworks to allow for the maximum amount of people using it, Usenet soon grew into a veritable household name, with thousands of users sharing information across hundreds of message boards. While it was eventually erased from our collective consciousness by the creation of the World Wide Web, which surpassed it in popularity and became the world’s most popular standard network, Usenet is still very much alive today: in fact, it has since become a sprawling maze of message boards, a massive database of user-created and curated audio and visual content.
Accessing Usenet: A Quick How-To
Usenet is set up much like websites like Reddit, an overarching structure containing thousands of message boards and communities where users contribute content, discuss common interests, and download and modify others’ creations. This system tends to encourage more of a collaborative community mentality, as opposed to the Web’s more “I need to stand out, I need to go viral and become famous” kind of mentality. Usenet has a community (called newsgroups by its users) for just about every imaginable interest, and there’s an easy application and approval process if you want to create your own: better, they’re all community moderated, with no third-party interference, so newsgroups can be whatever kind of space you want them to be.
All you need to access Usenet is a newsreader or Usenet’s equivalent of a browser and internet service provider wrapped up into one. Fortunately, there are lots of those around, and finding a newsreader that delivers tip-top service is as easy as finding a reliable browser: take a look at the market, choose an option that best fits your needs, and you’ll be surfing Usenet before you know it.
Joining a Thriving, Close-Knit Community
Usenet users are notably close-mouthed about their presence on the network, wanting to keep it from the reach of corporate interests constantly seeking people to market to. However, the door is always open for new people to join the Usenet user community: if any of the above struck a chord with you, download a newsreader now and get started. They’d love to have you.