Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Death of Usenet

Usenet really is dying, these days probally more then ever. Yesterday I did a search for a C# group, what did I find? A bunch of official Microsoft and Borland group, but neither a comp.lang.csharp or a de.comp.lang.csharp. I might have understood that a few years ago, but today, 2005, where there are dozens of books on the language, Mono is starting to get really usable and Microsoft pushing really hard for the language its just ridiculous. A little further search showed that there was a vote for the group, but it failed the 100 votes limited. Seems like usenet is trapped in a vicious cycle, no users, no groups, no groups, even less users -> usenet dead soon. Not sure what exactly causes this to start, but there are numerous things that just went fundamentally wrong:
  • very complicated and time consuming to create a new group, this might have made sense years ago when there weren't web forums and the usenet was full of people, but these days people simply create a webforum, which is a matter, instead of a newsgroup
  • mailing lists, again, same as with webforums, if there is something that matters people create a mailing lists instead of a newsgroup
  • lack of servers, more and more providers fail to provide a usenet server and there simply aren't any free ones which provide NNTP, there is Google Groups, but thats basically it. I can't blame the providers, since running a NNTP server is quite a huge amount of work.
  • bad usenet software, for years there wasn't a decent newsreader on windows, not even sure if there is now one, but if webforums provide automatic email notification on reply and usenet software provides exactly nothing along the same lines, its clear why people move away from the usenet
  • nettiquette, while web forums can get rough at times, most stay pretty well readable, on the usenet however people often end up having endless discussions about faked From headers, signutures longer then 4 lines, posting to the wrong group, redirecting them, follow-up or stuff like that. On mailing lists I have not even once seen such a useless discussion pop up.
In the end Usenet is doing great at shovling its own grave and I don't see any trend to move away from that. What usenet really could need is a more distrubuted aproach, open servers and software that makes it easy to interact and cross server boundaries instead of making it increadible hard or unimpossible. The whole policy on creating a new group should be reworked and made much easier, a protocol to handle group renames might help a lot to make sorting groups later easier instead of extremly hard as it is now. A little bit of common sense would already help usenet a lot, but its stuck in its own regularia, it wasn't Microsoft, Google or Netscape who killed the usenet, the usenet did pretty well at starving itself to death by sticking to old retiuals that completly dissmissed the progress of the rest of the web. I miss the usenet of the old days, but its just to damn obvious why nobody likes it anymore these days.

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