You may have heard the term Usenet or newsgroups thrown around. Maybe from a friend or at a birthday party somewhere.... But what is it exactly? And how can you use it?

Usenet, which stands for Users Network, is an Internet-based network of discussion groups. It has some similarities to a forum but that doesn't describe it enough. Its size is such that there are currently 40 million gigabytes of data available. The Usenet has been around for 40 years and is therefore older than the Internet that you use today. In this article we will take a closer look at the history of the Usenet.

It was once set up to share (news) reports with each other but nowadays it is mainly used to exchange files. In the Usenet world, these are also called binaries. Unfortunately, you can't just take a quick look through your browser, you need a separate Usenet service for this. At XS News you can find various products that give you access to the Usenet. A bit short of the mark but you could compare it to an internet subscription that you can get from KPN or Ziggo. But instead of internet we offer access to the Usenet.

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The Usenet is maintained by its users, who generate the text files and binaries you can find on it. One of the biggest advantages that is often mentioned is the speed at which binaries can be downloaded. We have multiple 10gb data cables to the Usenet servers, which allows for large binaries to be downloaded without difficulty.

Another advantage is the anonymity and privacy. So you can't be followed by Google and Facebook. Also, with us the connection to the Usenet servers is secured with the latest SSL encryption certificates.

Usenet & Newsgroups, what's the difference?

The Usenet is actually a collective name for the newsgroups you can find on it. That still sounds a bit fuzzy but let's dissect a bit further.

Each newsgroup has its own topic which can in turn have sub-topics. At XS News you have access to 134,000 newsgroups of which the oldest exists for over 20 years. All these groups together are called the Usenet. But to view the Usenet you search through the newsgroups.

Usenet groups

But how do you view these newsgroups?

This can be done using a newsreader, which is a program that connects to the Usenet. We have written a few manuals to configure this. You can find them here.

An important word in the Usenet world is retention. The retention indicates how many days in the past you can search back. However, a distinction must be made here between text files, or messages, and binaries. This is because text messages are much smaller and can therefore be easily retained for longer. We use a 2200 day retention for binaries. This means that you can search in binaries from the past 6 years.

The newsreader is the program that makes this easy for you. You can browse through the newsgroups and scroll through messages.

Is there some kind of google for Usenet to specifically find things?

Take it with a grain of salt but yes, there is. This service is called an indexer. The name gives it away but this service indexes the Usenet, allowing you to search it with a few words! You have some free variants like but for the really good indexers you will have to pay.

So is it safe?

Yes, it's just as safe as the Internet you use now. If you don't visit strange websites or click on dubious e-mails, you have nothing to fear from the Usenet. There are bad apples in every world and the Usenet is no exception. Here and there you will come across spam or phishing links. We do our very best to filter these out as much as possible so it is already a great achievement if you come across one. However, if you are not a pancake you can safely use the Usenet. In addition, our connections are secured with the latest SSL encryptions and accessible with all good VPNs, speed is not affected much if at all.

In short, for the Usenet you need the following:

  1. A product or service with a Usenet provider. This will give you access to the Usenet.
  2. A newsreader (also called a Usenet client). This program is used to browse newsgroups and/or download binary files.
  3. An Indexer. The Usenet's search engine. Use this service to find NZB files.