The Nerd Side Of Life

The World’s First Version of the Internet That You Can Still Use Today

Back in 1979, two graduate school students wanted to exchange information with each other using their computers. The only problem was that there was no Messenger, no direct messages (DMs)— no internet back then. Of course, no one had any idea of what Messenger or DMs were at the time, but these two college students figured out a way to exchange information using telephone modems.

Usenet Then

These two students, Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott (along with another friend), created the User’s Network, shortened to Usenet. This invention allowed students at the college campus of Duke University to share information in discussion forums, which were called newsgroups. These different newsgroups focused on topics such as history, math, science, literature, etc. The very first newsgroup on Usenet was titled “net.general” which was a discussion group created to discuss the “general” topic of computer science. 

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Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Usenet was widely used on college campuses all across the country. And despite the world later being introduced to the world wide web, Usenet still remained never went away like many of the social media sites from the early 2000s. Usenet is still up and running, and it can be accessed today.

Usenet Now


Back in the ‘80s, Usenet was mostly used by college students and professors to exchange scholarly information. As more and more people began purchasing computers, it was accessed by many more individuals and the newsgroups topics quickly switched from academic topics to pop culture topics. Today, there are over 110,000 newsgroups whose topics are academic, pop culture— anything you can think of.


Also, back in Usenet’s early days, newsgroups consisted only of text files. Today, you can access and download text, images, videos, audio, and even software files in any given newsgroup. Back then, people also didn’t have to worry about keeping their personal information safe as we do now. But again, Usenet has kept up with the current times. Everything that you download from Usenet today is encrypted through a secure socket layer (SSL), meaning that all downloads are secure.


This refers to the amount of information that you can download at one time. When you create an account with Usenet, you’ll have a specified number of connections, usually somewhere between 30 and 60.

How to Access

The only way to access Usenet is through a Usenet service provider. There are several service providers on the market, but the best providers are Tier-1 providers, who are going to have the most secure downloads and the fastest download speeds.

What to Look for in a Usenet Service Provider

Because most Usenet services are provided as a subscription service, you’ll want to find a provider that will give you the most for your money. To get the most out of your money, you’ll want to find a Tier-1 provider that offers unlimited downloads, at least 30 connections, a decent amount of retention time (retention refers to the amount of time text and binary/non-text files are stored on Usenet), a free newsreader (this is how you’ll actually be able to search Usenet for the content you’re looking for), and, of course, secure downloads.

It also wouldn’t hurt if the service provider you’re looking into offers a free trial period. Before subscribing to anything, you’ll want to see exactly what it is you’ll be getting out of the service before you start paying for it.

It’s interesting to think that one of the least-known social platforms is actually the oldest and longest-running social platform. Though Usenet differs from social media today, it provides many of the same things. You get to share information and interact with people from around the world, you can securely download user-generated content, and you can even create your own content and share it with other Usenet users.

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