The internet allows a great degree of anonymity online. But it is becoming clearer every day that many parties are tracking our activity. Whether it’s the search engine you use, the social network, the online shopping site, or the government, it’s hard not to feel someone’s eyes on you as your surf the internet. To get back to the days when surfing the web was more private, many people are turning to an older technology. Usenet is making a comeback, and if you want to browse more anonymously or download files discretely, Usenet might be the answer you are looking for.
What Is Usenet?
Usenet is a network that allows users to exchange information, by sharing files. Usenet is a separate network from the world wide web and cannot be accessed from the internet. If you’ve ever accessed one of the older Bulletin Board Systems, Usenet will feel familiar to you. Information and files are posted to newsgroups. Many internet forums are also set up much like newsgroups. There are thousands of newsgroups with many different sources of information available to read or download including eBooks, music files, photos, and video.
How to Access Usenet?
To access Usenet, you will usually need to subscribe to a Usenet service provider. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer access to Usenet as a separate subscription. But due to the complexity of hosting Usenet access and the amount of bandwidth needed to host files for downloading, most ISPs prefer to simply not offer this as a service.
In addition to your Usenet provider subscription, you will need a Usenet browser known as a newsreader. In the same way a web browser connects you to the internet, a Usenet browser connects you to Usenet. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry. In practice this is usually very simple. Most Usenet providers offer a newsreader you can download so getting started is usually a simple matter of installing the software and logging on.
Groups Discussions and Downloads
So why would you want to subscribe to a Usenet provider and access Usenet? There is a greater degree of anonymity available in accessing Usenet than there is the internet. For this reason, many discussions and exchanges of ideas that would not ordinarily take place on the internet do take place there.
This may lead you to believe that it is a place where criminals might find each other, but that is not normally the case. In a day where prospective employers will often perform an online search for anything you have said or posted online, some perfectly harmless opinions or ideas might be kept back for fear of how it would look out of context. The anonymity of Usenet allows you free range of expression without fear your boss or grandmother might stumble onto your discussion.
Downloads Unique from Torrenting
In addition, Usenet is formatted well for exchanging file downloads. The other popular method for storing or exchanging digital downloads is torrenting. But a Torrent file needs users with the file available to share when you want to download it. This can often be a slow and frustrating process. By contrast, Usenet posts files to download on a server. There it is always available and can usually be downloaded at speeds similar to downloading from any website.
This makes Usenet an excellent source for exchanging large media files. Audio and video files are readily available for download without restrictions by an ISP. This freedom to distribute media allows many independent artists to display their work in a way that might not otherwise be accessible online.
Comparing Usenet Providers
If you’re ready to give Usenet a try, the first thing to do is find a Usenet provider. There are many to choose from, and some do better at some things than others.
Some key features to look for in a Usenet provider include:
- File Retention. How long does the Usenet provider keep files posted on their servers available to download? The longer the better as it makes finding the files you want easier.
- Speed. How fast are the servers? Waiting for your download is boring, you want it to go as fast as possible.
- Number of Newsgroups. The more newsgroups available through the service, the more likely you are to find the files you want, or to find an interesting discussion to be a part of.
- Security. A Usenet provider that offers SSL helps protect your anonymity better than one that doesn’t.
The Best Usenet Providers
Here are some of the top Usenet providers to consider:
- Newshosting. Newshosting is on many lists of top Usenet providers for a reason. Founded in 1997, this provider has been around long enough to know what they are doing. Better yet, it’s one of the less expensive providers. With over 100,000 newsgroups and over 3,000 days retention, you are almost guaranteed to find what you’re looking for. Newshosting offers a free newsreader and a free trial to get started.
- Easynews. Easynews offers a unique way of connecting that works with any web browser rather than needing a newsreader. Easynews also works on mobile devices which is great when you’re on the go. They also supply file retention of over 3,000 days and provide access to over 100,000 newsgroups. This service costs a bit more for the unlimited plan, but you can try it out for 14 days free to see if Easynews is right for you.
- UsenetServer. Another long-established Usenet provider, UsenetServer is 20 years old and still going strong. If you opt for their one-year subscription, it is also one of the most affordable. UsenetServer has some of the fastest download speeds available. One of the few drawbacks to their service is that they don’t provide their own newsreader for you to use. UsenetServer does provide a list of several newsreaders you can choose from however, so you can get started quickly.
Usenet and VPNs
VPNs and Usenets go together like peanut butter and jelly. Look especially for a VPN that encrypts all incoming and outgoing data. This will keep your ISP from snooping on your activity online. If your ISP realizes you are downloading a lot of files, they may throttle your bandwidth. A VPN also keeps your activity anonymous by connecting you to a server not associated with you or your location. Keeping your activity online anonymous, whether using a Usenet or surfing the internet, guards your privacy and is a good step to take in today’s world.