back to article Usenet's home shuts down today

Duke University in North Carolina is where Usenet began, and today the institution is shutting down its Usenet server. The college cites "low usage and rising costs" for the decision. The first messages began flowing in 1980, after two Duke students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, developed the protocol, using UUCP as a transport …


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  1. Steve Foster

    "rising costs"

    An NNTP server is pretty much fire and forget. It'll be mouldering in a broom closet somewhere, out of sight. Apart from a bit of juice and a few KB of bandwidth, what cost is there to rise?

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Steve Foster

      Yes, it can be inexpensive for a single user (or a few users). For example, my own "friends & family" usenet server is a Sun 3/470 "Pegasus", and has happily been serving news (and email, and hosting FTP services[1]) since 1989 (or thereabouts). It currently serves around 300 public & private groups, all text-only.

      But once you start adding a few tens of thousands of users, and start including binaries, costs skyrocket. The frontend and backend systems get increasingly complex. See:

      And that's, essentially, a hobby system! Bandwidth costs can be astronomical, last time I looked a "full feed" was in the neighborhood of 5.5TB per day (although nobody sane takes feeds from the Dutch "dump" groups, the DVD/tv/game groups & the likes of "boneless"). Giganews has nearly two years of binary retention, and around 7 years of text retention. Geographically diverse, redundant storage costs, and internal network needs are like no other in networking. If I were looking to hire a network engineer, and an experienced "in the trenches" Usenet dude/tte applied, they would undoubtedly get the job.

      Giganews may or may not have stats online, I can't be arsed to look.

      [1] It is also the family WWW server ... but that's a johnny-come-lately thingie ;-)

    2. frymaster

      *cough* *splutter*

      "a few KB"?


      every post made in every newsgroup a server supports must be sent to that server, REGARDLESS of whether or not any users ever subscribe. with binary newsgroups, that's an astonishingly large amount of data every day

      not to mention the disk cost involved in having a decent retention time

    3. Robert A. Rosenberg

      Cost of a NNTP SERVER

      Steve Foster posted

      "An NNTP server is pretty much fire and forget. It'll be mouldering in a broom closet somewhere, out of sight. Apart from a bit of juice and a few KB of bandwidth, what cost is there to rise?"

      Steve -

      I doubt that a "Few KB of Bandwidth" is enough to support a NNTP Server (I think the full feed is in the Tens or Hundreds of GB/day). In computing the cost, you are also ignoring the cost for storing the articles (unless you have a short retention period). The amount of data being archived keeps growing (for the same retention period). There is also the question of how full a selection of topics you want to keep.

    4. Robin 2

      Rising costs = decreased funding

      Time of crisis and all that....

    5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Ongoing catastrophic downturn/IP Meltdown

      "rising costs" may be a euphemism for significant losses, Steve, as revealed here .....

      And in that frantic Transatlantic bun fight between the € and the $, is the Wall Street Ponzi Money up against Flash Teutonic Crash Cash. ......... as is revealed here? ......

      [Although I have absolutely no idea how accurate and truthful that abovetopsecret account would be, as it does appear to be a somewhat ........ well, an alternative site is a pleasant enough description which should cause no real or imaginary offence.]

  2. Stumpy


    Can I be the first to say that it looks like Duke's Nuked'em Forever...

    ... (sorry) ... I'll get my coat

  3. Tom Melly

    Weird - I'm currently proposing to my company that we start up a news-server

    We all work from home, and the endless round-robin of emails are hard to manage - a news-server seems like the perfect solution.

    TBH I'm always surprised that news-readers never found a place in SMS - instead people seem to be happy with endlessly growing lists of CCs in emails....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I tried that once...

      I tried that once a few years back for a previous employer and the response was roughly along the lines of: How can technology that wasn't invented within the last two years possibly help us?

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: I tried that once...


        Did you take the wheels off their car, and watch them try to drive home?

        1. Chika


          Car? That thing they invented over 100 years ago? How can that help us?

    2. godheadatomic

      Do the wave

      Sounds like your group is an ideal candidate for Google Wave!

      ..mine's the one with the battered Hokusai print in.

    3. Scott R. Godin

      NNTP is still alive and well though currently supports thousands of mailing lists and has access via nntp rather than "web BBS/archive" or plain old email.

      I find "Bulletin boards" on the web to be hopelessly uselessly obtuse in comparison with the newsreader format, and almost never glean anything useful from them. The interfaces suck hard enough to pull the Earth thru a soda-straw. But then again I'm intelligent enough to hit the floor with my hat, so... perhaps they're not meant for me.

      The newsreader format (still supported by thunderbird/mozilla, opera, and many others) is so far and away more pleasant to use, it's not even funny.

      I owe Gmane some thanks for making such a thing possible, that I can still keep on top of the various mailing lists without all the email clutter.

  4. Cliff

    Brilliant :-)

    >>>But then the original engineers actually had an education in how computer systems worked, rather than focussing on making privacy policies fade out of view using Javascript.<<<

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      When I read that I thought "M-E-O-W"

  5. Anonymous Coward

    A shame .... kind of...

    Sad news, and a bit of internet history gone.

    But perhaps not a calamity if the same fate followed the whole of usenet.

    Twenty years ago when I first started using the internet, usenet was what attracted me most - countless special-interest communities where discussion, advice and help was paramount.

    Five years ago, I dropped out of usenet altogether - it had been taken over by trolls and sock puppets, and the chances of intelligent discussion on any topic (especially the topic espoused by the usenet group itself) had become vanishingly small. Not to mention the binary groups, which apart from anything else made many isps back away from a medium they saw as fraught with porn and piracy.

    So it's goodbye usenet. I'll miss you, but no question your time is up.

  6. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Usenet Was The...

    ...BitTorrent of it's day, and as such was attacked by the anti free speech and copyright enforcement communities almost from day one.

    It continues to be a very important medium, supported by large ISP's, who benefit by local caching, and zillions of freetards and other users, who benefit by keeping abreast (ahem) of their topics of interest.

    The 211 shortage over, I raise my glass to USENET.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Just a couple of days

    after the demise of 'newzbin' too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Usenet was how I obtained my earliest digitised pr0n. Bye bye Usenet, you were good to me.

    Anon, for obvious reasons.

  9. jake Silver badge

    May I be the first to say ...

    ... Death of Usenet predicted! Film at eleven!

    Still ... ::sigh:: That's sad. The only question is, will the administration allow a student group use the name, to maintain a hobby site?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Birthplace of Usenet, maybe...

    ...but no more a home (and, in many cases, significantly less) than the many thousands of NNTP servers around the world.

  11. Random_Walk

    I have to.


    (if you know, you know why. :) )

    Usenet, ye had a good run. The long twilight will be sad to see.

    (yes, I know NNTP is still up, but with more and more stories about NNTP servers being disconnected from this or that network... figure I'd say something).

    1. Walking Turtle

      Meow as I for one still see it meow

      Meow meow dead or alive, Fluffy STILL owns UseNet - and BubbaBoo+CoCoBoo+MiddyBoo+LadyCat The Magnificent Ones shall collect Virtual Bandwith Fees therein *forever* meow meow!

      Sweet Sleep, Beloveds.

  12. Joe H.

    I remember...

    ... accessing usenet through a netcom unix shell account with a 2400 baud modem and until .html came along it was all we had to communicate. There were many fine ASCII artists that made amazing graphic pictures with nothing but letters and symbols from the keyboard.

    <grasps sides of walker handles and shuffles away from keyboard muttering bitterly about how good the whippersnapper facebooking twitterers have it these days>

  13. Captain Thyratron

    Sad to see it go.

    Usenet's popularity, I mean.

    And now what do people do? "Social Networking." Oi weh.

  14. alderson

    NNTP? Really?

    One quibble: The article makes the claim, perhaps inadvertently, that nntp predates the Internet.

    Usenet used Unix-to-Unix-copy (uucp) over dial-up phone lines for a very long time. It wasn't until the Internet was firmly established that a TCP-based NetNews Transfer Protocol (nntp) was devised, and uucp was still the primary vehicle for Usenet for a long long time afterwards, since the world at large was not allowed on the Internet until the mid-1990s.

    For a very long time, there were a number of sites which resided on both networks and acted as relays (sometimes in one direction only, sometimes bidirectionally).

  15. fred slack 1

    Usenet gone

    Sad. I cut my computing teeth on Usenet.

  16. adrianww

    I find that a bit sad...

    ...even though I haven't frequented anything nntp-ish for maybe ten years or more. I have some fond memories of first discovering the fun playground of the Usenet newsgroups back in the mid-to-late eighties. Feels a bit like a "passing of an era" moment, even if only in a very small way.

    Now it all seems to be badgers.

  17. Bad Beaver

    Ah, fuggem!

    Ahhh, Usenet – full of knowledgeable people, short on trolls. Yet most people are to lazy and ignorant to even use eMail properly.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    NN. Too simple for the WIPM generation.

    Just a useful reliable system to help people communicate.

    But remember there are a *lot* of news servers left.

  19. shrdlu

    Death of Usenet: Film at 11?

    Before September, usenet news was an invaluable source of information for those in the know. That hasn't changed much. It's still the best communications technology for fact-based communications, and not a few virtual communities. It's not going to die completely, but if the big servers go it will be balkanized. If necessary I'll hang a server off of my home broadband system to carry a handful of groups that interest me.

    Maybe it's time to resurrect Fidonet?

    1. Scott R. Godin
      Black Helicopters

      ye gods, I remember that

      Used to have a Fidonet Point off of the Dragons Cave BBS (which later became MacNETIC, no relation to Apple) to follow the 60s_70s_PROGROCK echo mostly, along with a few other things.

      Had some nifty little software running on my Mac (SE/30) at the time to do this with. MacWoof, by Craig Vaughan.

      I still get twitted by my beardy unix guru buddies occasionally, who remember when fidonet invaded usenet, and how godawful the fidonet addressing scheme had to be, at the time, in order to participate there. :D

  20. Lamont Cranston

    "emoticons and slang acronyms such as LOL ...

    ...flame wars ... originated or were popularized on Usenet"

    Is any of that a good thing?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fail Whale

    > a nice example of a distributed system, with messages propagating to servers around the world. No Fail Whales here.

    Facebook take note. Where did it all go right...?

  22. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I use Google Groups

    Before that Deja News, before that Demon dialup and a real news server - and their custom dialer/newsreader.

    I read rec.arts.sf.written,,, and sometimes rec.arts.comics.* and the soon(?) closed down Microsoft support groups.

    Usenet also gave us spam and still does, as well as a new way to catch worms.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    All I can say is :-(

    Goodnight, sweet prince.

  24. Al Jones

    LOL? I don't think so.

    My memory is that LOL came with the invasion of AOL users sometime in the mid 90's. In fact, a brief search on Google Groups (it was better when it was still dejanews) suggests that LOL meant Little Old Lady back then. ROTFLMAO was much more

    I still recall encountering FFS in a post for the first time, and being highly amused. They were more innocent times.

    1. I didn't do IT.

      Re: Usenet ... um, terms

      If anything, the one acronym found more than any other in groups across the networks:


      Some powers never die...

  25. EvilGav 1

    Was invaluable . . .

    . . . was a major frequenter 10-15 years ago. It was how I found out about the latest goings on in the world of DVD's, with lots of technical answers before such things as Wikipedia existed.

    It was how I got information from friends in New York on 9/11.

    But it went down-hill rapidly with the advancement of always on broadband and TV Internet, two things that contributed to more idiots being on the boards than ever.

    It may not be dead yet, but it is dying..

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dying Networkds never DYE

      "It may not be dead yet, but it is dying.." but was merely one AIncarnation of The Great Network's Soul Heir Apparently.

      Freenet and other Public Collections and Donations of PRivate Nodes are there for the Next Taking Rapture/Rupture for the Good of the Masses, if Better Betas and Algorithms can bestow True Cryptic Privacy from the EastAblishment's tentacles of Governments and Corporations.

    2. noodle heimer

      They're. Not. Motherfucking. Called. Boards.

      Newsgroups. That's the ticket.

      The thing which distinguished newsgroups for me - and continues to do so, in principle - was that they were truly a many-to-many medium. Any individual post had one author, but when posting you knew many others would read and many others could comment and in an unmoderated group, there was no one with veto power.

      Also very importantly, no one owned all of usenet or all of a newsgroup, in the way that entities own websites - and are thus in principle liable for their content.

      Sadly, as other tools became available many of the best writers retreated to less noisy forums, and I think few understood how much less interesting and surprising an owned and/or owned and moderated platforms were going to have to be.

      1. Chika


        Now how many times have I seen that particular gripe, especially when an Asshole On Line luser started banging on about web boards and stuff?

        Hang on a mo... Usenet dead? Not quite yet! *I* still use it!

        (Hi to the csa groups and anyone on raam and umaa!) ^_^

  26. George of the Jungle

    In the old days

    That was how I got my news way back in the day. My favorite group was and I used to answer questions on comp.sys.apollo. Good times.

  27. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Who can forget..


    1. jake Silver badge

      For those who weren't born yet ...

      Sadly, looks to be non-functional ...

  28. justkyle

    Google's war on the internet continues unabashed...

    First, they came for Archie, then Veronica, nobody said anything.

    Then, they took out the venerable Gopherspace. Nobody said anything.

    With usenet being gone, how much longer before the internet becomes totally commercialized.

    Oh, wait a second, we're already there.

    15 years ago, I felt that the internet had such promise.

    Now, I guess I know better.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Early Promise Dashed? Oh Please, You Cannot be Serious whenever So Much is Ongoing and Achieved

      justkyle, Hi,

      The internet, much to the increasing consternation of those who would think that they are effectively running Establishment Global Controls and National SCADA Systems, is for Newly Phormed Generations of Great Game Players, Majoring in AI and Neuro-Linguistic ProgramMING Fields [aka MkUltraSensitive Brain Washing Terrain], as their Base Home Computer/Virtually Dynamic Machine, for Full Customised Tweaking/Radical Driver Build.

      And the Drag Strip/Dyno/Circuit for BetaTesting Performance and Components/Elements? ....... Colossal Cloud Strata ..... which "provides a complete integrated tool suite for developing and debugging embedded applications"

      And I see no evidence of Google having any impact or influence in ITs Development Build, which is quite odd really if one is to be led to believe that they be thought and perceived to be so powerful as to warrant the headline, "Google's war on the internet continues unabashed..." whenever they do not even register as a blip on ITs Bigger Picture Screens.

      Maybe their Presence and Input and Control is yet to Come or maybe they are a Past History and Memory Bank for a Future Operated Operating System? I suppose the answer to that question can only be supplied by Google themselves by their actions, or not, in ITs Live Operational Virtual Environment Fields. ... LOVE Fields.

  29. PT
    Paris Hilton

    Let's not forget...

    Along with emoticons etc, usenet was the nursery of trolling and spam. In any event, it's still up. If anything deserves to die it's botnet-friendly IRC.

    "One Night In alt.rec.bin"

    1. Chika

      Oh really?

      In some ways, IRC is already dead. Let's face it, how many channels out there on whatever networks are still about are actually devoted to chatting? Most of the channels I've seen in latter days are full of bots and file-swappers who say little, mostly because they are 99% AFK.

      1. Scott R. Godin

        IRC dead? depends on where you look

        Freenode is definitely alive and well, supporting thousands of open-source apps, and is definitely one of my first stops when I'm looking for more information than google can mine for me.

  30. sisk

    'Tis a sad sad moment for the digital world

    That is all.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    outdated, nostalgia?

    Despite being online since '94, I've barely ever used it.

    I've met people who did, but they are generally extremely boring die hard linux console geeks.

    I suppose it's old enough to be nostalgic in the same way the ZX81, Spectrum, Vic20 or Commodore64 are to most of us.

    For the vast percentage of people, back in the 80's, the internet was completely unknown territory - we got our computer news and info from magazines - Usenet? I knew nothing about it till the mid-90's.

  32. Jeff F.

    This like a Usenet topic!

    With full color flash ads on half the screen.

    I love reading comments. Its like following a topic, and mostly on course. Thanks Reg.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Re:LOL? I don't think so.

    More like some AOL user saw someone else saying LOL, asked what it meant and was told "Little Old Lady". Being an AOL user they probably would have believed it as well.

    Some other ones:

    TBH - The Big Horse

    WTF - Whip The French

    ROFL - Remnant Of Fart Lingering

    I'm pretty sure the only things AOL users every contributed to the internet was the frustration of every webmaster out there The Big Horse.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      The only acronym I recall AOL users contributing was

      Arseholes On-Line

      Usenet - the last bastion of free speech (as long as you're prepared to dig deep and have lots of patience)

  34. Anonymous Coward

    ot: Groklaw on why Acacia sued Microsoft

    "why couldn't you have an entity like IP Innovation sue Linux vendors *and* Microsoft, and if they win, they get money from the Linux vendor, and if they lose, Microsoft agrees to settle? Would that not be slick?"

  35. Adrian Esdaile

    Get ready for Judgement Day....

    "left in a cupboard somewhere" and in the years since, this USENET server has become... SENTIENT. Having just been partly lobotomized, now it's ANGRY.....

    On a lighter note... Bye, Duke, I can remember typing something back in The Day when I was reading USENET rather than actually doing work at University....

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