Usenet is one of the largest and most secure file sharing platforms, yet even most users of Torrents have never heard of it. It is a decentralized message distribution network that dates back to before the web was created. Back then, all you could post was text messages and it was fairly limited. As Usenet grew, ways of posting files were created and from that point on Usenet has had a tremendous rate of growth that has lasted decades.
Usenet now has billions of files with 65 million new uploads per day. Usenet is made up of “newsgroups”, which can be thought of as folders or category listings, and every upload has to be tagged with what newsgroup it belongs to. This may sound a little strange, but this makes it so using a search engine is not your only hope for finding files that might be interesting. You can just find a newsgroup that sounds interesting and browse the files in that group.
Let’s assume you had an interest in something like car racing. If you just search for files containing the word “racing” then you would miss a file named “Classic in Monaco 1969”, but if you were browsing the list of files in a newsgroup named alt.binaries.multimedia.autos.racing then it would be easy to see in the list of files that are relevant to your interest.
Usenet has over 100,000 newsgroups, covering every subject imaginable (and many more). You will see that all of the largest newsgroups start with “alt.binaries”, which essentially means that it is a newsgroup for files.
Much like other platforms, you need special software (called a ‘newsgroup reader’) to access Usenet. Newsbin and News Rover are popular software packages that some Usenet providers include with their accounts and are excellent apps to get you started. Both apps have search capabilities built in that will let you search across all of the billions of files on Usenet and download easily.
Unlike file sharing platforms that you may be familiar with, you also need an account to gain access to the global network. There are over a dozen independent Usenet providers that can give you an account, with options ranging from providing small free accounts to plans costing over $30 per month and they can offer a variety of benefits. The best all around packages seem to be from Usenet.net & Usenet Storm.
It is easy for someone new to Usenet to not understand why so many people would pay to access this platform when other things like Torrents are free, but Usenet has several unique advantages that Torrents do not offer. Usenet is faster than Torrents and can hit speeds as high as 3 Gbps, if your Internet connection is fast enough for that. Another benefit is that no uploading is required, as it was originally built as a global discussion medium. Perhaps most importantly to many users, Usenet access is anonymous and encrypted to the same level as your online banking.
All of these new terms can seem intimidating for someone new to Usenet, but it is actually easier than it sounds. There is a reason it continues to experience an insane rate of growth year after year, so check it out for yourself and you may find an interesting part of the Internet you never knew existed.