I’m close to a farewell to Usenet, aka “the newsgroups.” If my Usenet participation were an old game of Combat, the score would be blinking. This blog has rapidly become my primary writing outlet, and the pleasant interaction once to be had on Usenet has severely diminished. I’ve also noticed that it seems a very low priority for most ISPs whenever anything goes wrong (else Supernews wouldn’t have any individual business to speak of). I’d guess most people who have initially gotten online in the past five years or so have never heard of Usenet, and that’s probably got a lot to do with it.
Usenet was my first sustained exposure to the Internet, when I started my first net-connected job in 1994 (which hardly makes me a true granddaddy user, but I do remember when most companies didn’t have web sites, most people didn’t have email addresses, AltaVista and WebCrawler were kings of the search engine mountain, and their traffic was measured in hundreds of thousands per day instead of tens of millions per hour). The first group I remember reading was alt.tasteless, which was quite an introduction to this radical new world I’d “discovered.” I couldn’t believe people sat around and talked about their bowel movements and the so-called “delights” of used feminine hygiene products all day. But there it was. There it still is (insert your own content warning here).
Usenet has had a slight rebound lately. The tech groups, particularly the Microsoft-specific ones, have significant traffic. But there really isn’t much of the old spirit there.
I once monitored and/or participated in upwards of 20 groups. I’m down to a single newsgroup: hsv.general. It’s my hometown group, so even if I “quit” I may still put an occasional toe in it. It was once a vibrant community, but its traffic has dwindled to the point that daily monitoring of it is pointless. Just ain’t nobody out there no more, Mildred. And it’s the interaction that makes it worthwhile; otherwise, we could hold court with a few teddy bears in our living room floor and call it a day.
It was a great ride, Usenet. Thanks for the memories.