[NetBehaviour] R.I.P Usenet: 1980-2008.

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Fri Aug 1 11:39:34 CEST 2008

R.I.P Usenet: 1980-2008.

Child-porn investigations have doomed one of the last remnants of a 
smaller, kinder Net.

by Sascha Segan.

Before the Eternal September, but after the Great Renaming, I learned 
about sex on Usenet. A few years later, on a Mac SE in a college 
basement, I met friends I still have today. We "spewed" about our 
teenage lives in ways that would be familiar to any MySpace blogger 
circa 2008, but that were radical, strange, and comforting in 1993. We 
made faraway friends, burned yearbooks to CDs and mailed them to Finland 
with way too many stamps. We were the first Net kids, really.

In a way inconceivable in today's Web-fragmented marketplace, Usenet was 
where you went to talk. Conceived back in the idealistic, non-profit 
days of the Internet, it was--well, it is, but it mostly was--a series 
of bulletin boards called "newsgroups" shared by thousands of computers, 
which traded new messages several times a day.

On the text-only Usenet of my memory, nobody knew whether you were a 
dog, or a kid, or Finnish--only what you wrote. There wasn't the 
obsession with photos and video that overruns today's social networking 
sites. Yeah, I know that sounds like "get off my lawn you darn kids" 
crotchetiness, but there's something really nice about just talking to 
people and not caring what they look like.


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