The internet is supposed to be a tool that makes our lives easier, a digital canvas we can use for any given purpose: people use the internet to facilitate business transactions, to purchase goods and groceries online, to escape from the horrors of the physical world, and to communicate with one another when times are tough.
It is this versatility, this ability of the internet to adapt and provide whatever services we need, that has led to its integration into almost every facet of our lives.
Yet, the Web is by no means a perfect place and has dramatically transformed since its inception. What was once a sandbox where people could create what they wanted, explore where they wanted, and share new information and insights with one another in a safe space has now become corporate America’s new gold mine.
Companies see our era as the era of “Big Data,” a time where we consumers freely and frequently post information about ourselves online to be collected in a massive historical database that can be used for marketing purposes.
In addition to that, the rollback of net neutrality restrictions has made it possible for corporate America to engage in other practices, paying off internet service providers (ISPs) to limit our access to competitors’ services in favor of their own.
These problems were slowly installed into the framework of the Web over decades, and likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Fortunately, the Web isn’t the only online space worth inhabiting: Usenet, which is a network that’s still active today with thousands of users, is a viable alternative for people looking to engage with a different, healthier digital culture.
Read on to learn more about how Usenet differs from the World Wide Web and why you might want to check out a different network today.
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A Collaborative Network Environment
Usenet was built with the express purpose of making it easier for disparate individuals (and in the old days, institutions) to collaborate and share information. The network was founded as a way for academics from UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University to collaborate, sharing files and information quickly and easily, and the spirit the network was built with has been heartily maintained by the gaggle of communities now populating the network.
As opposed to the modern way users treat the Web, trying their best to etch out platforms for themselves, attempting to go viral and achieve “influencer” status, users of Usenet instead take and give to their communities in equal measure, using the platform for the edification of all.
Moreover, because Usenet is largely treated as outmoded by corporate America, users of Usenet don’t have to worry about corporate incursion on their space: tracked ads, unwanted collection of data, and other skeevy data collecting tactics aren’t a thing on Usenet.
Usenet is split up into thousands of different discussion boards called newsgroups, working much like the popular social media site Reddit. These newsgroups are created and moderated by members of the community with no outside control or influence, aside from an easy-to-pass application process when a newsgroup originally gets created.
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Community members submit user-created content to these discussion boards, which from there can be quickly downloaded and modified by other users, ensuring a steady stream of fresh, ever-developing content for newsgroups in every interest. Usenet also has the benefit of having unlimited access and download speeds, further facilitating this kind of collaborative network environment.
All one needs to access Usenet is a browser called a newsreader, often offered by a provider, not unlike an internet service provider. Most newsreaders are sold at a variety of packages and rates, so don’t be afraid to search the market for one that best fits your needs, especially if you’re trying to access Usenet for the first time.
Giving Something New a Try
Usenet is a very different kind of space than the World Wide Web. Give Usenet a shot, see if you take well to its culture based around the free and open sharing of information: it might just be the antidote to our marketing-based typical web experience that you need.