April 21, 2024
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Is Usenet the Future of Social Networking?

  • March 20, 2024
  • 4 min read
Is Usenet the Future of Social Networking?

The modern social media landscape is dire, to say the least. Disinformation abounds, polarization precludes thoughtful conversation, and social media corporations imperil privacy by selling data and allowing targeted advertising. More and more research asserts that the addictive and often toxic nature of platforms like Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter causes serious harm to users, particularly younger individuals who are easily influenced.

Connection is an intrinsic human need, but it can be difficult to find others with our interests in our local communities, which is why so many people turn to social networking to get this need met.

It’s clear that we simply can’t do away with online communities, but we can rely on better platforms that respect user privacy and are built on self-policing rather than algorithmic censorship. This is why, in a chaotic social media environment, many are returning to Usenet, a champion of privacy and freedom of expression. Today, we’ll look at why, instead of developing ever-more intrusive social networking solutions, Usenet may again be a paradigm shifter in how humans connect online.

Usenet’s Decentralization Protects User Safety

Usenet’s Decentralization Protects User Safety


The majority of new social media platforms are highly centralized, relying on teams of thousands of computer scientists to monitor hate speech, manage disputes, and adjust algorithms. This, when combined with the large amount of personal information these companies harvest, places individuals in danger whenever there’s a data breach.

In contrast, the world’s first social network relies on Usenet service providers; a smaller company keeps all financial information safe, and the central Usenet servers keep no user records. When records are spread out like this, a single attack on one provider will not endanger anyone else, and the providers can act quickly to shut down breaches because they have less infrastructure to navigate.

Well-Established Netiquette Prevents Harm

Doxing, harassment, and malicious communications are rife on platforms like Twitter; it’s not uncommon for larger accounts to receive thousands of hateful messages per day, sometimes from dedicated trolls who are never rooted out of the community.

Usenet, developed over four decades, has a strong culture of self-monitoring and community action; users truly care for those in their newsgroups and want to protect their small corner of the internet from becoming a toxic cesspool. Bad actors are called out and disciplined whenever necessary, often within only a few exchanges, which shuts down bad behavior much faster than on newer social media. This is not to say that Usenet exchanges never become heated – the term “flame war” came from this network, after all – but other users often step in and de-escalate the situation, which doesn’t happen on other platforms.

The excellent oversight is also because moderated newsgroups tend to be smaller and, just like Usenet providers, can act faster than with an extensive, centralized network like Twitter, where there is no direct oversight over user exchanges.

You Can Develop Deeper Relationships With Fellow Users

Novel social media networks are built on fast, ephemeral transactions; it’s hard to make friends or really get to know others when you get only snippets of conversations and a few pictures. Usenet, however, heavily favors longer, text-based communications, which allow ample time to develop one’s thoughts and understand another user’s perspective.

When perusing archives of Usenet conversations, one sees a rich tapestry of personal acknowledgments, inside jokes, and friendly banter based on years of consistent interaction, which doesn’t happen in places like TikTok. One may stitch someone else’s TikTok or reply to a tweet, but this is often more to offer their own opinions than to build camaraderie; someone may not have ever interacted with another user before or even seen any other their own content before jumping in.

On Usenet, users are not just consumers or commentators; they are friends and associates who provide their thoughts and build a sense of community. Many amazing projects began due to casual conversations on Usenet, such as the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, a now prestigious organization that was one of the first scientific journals ever published on the internet. It’s possible that the next big collaboration is only waiting to happen on Usenet, ready to shock the world with its brilliance.

In a world that has become both more interconnected and isolated, many internet users are seeking a greater sense of community and deeper, more meaningful interactions with like-minded individuals. Addictive modern social media platforms create surface-level friendships, but they fail to foster rich relationships that transcend the platform as Usenet does. Fortunately, the venerable social network of Usenet, easily accessible through a third-party provider, is there to usher in a new era of strong friendships, thoughtful conversations, and spirited discussions about every topic imaginable.

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