Usenet: The Future of Social Networking?

Despite the popularity of social media, there is widespread understanding that modern social networks are toxic places, unhealthy and addictive. Disinformation flourishes while more reasonable, accurate takes are buried by algorithms designed to promote posts that “engage” by making people angry. They are beholden to advertisers and the egos of larger-than-life celebrity owners. But social media does remain incredibly popular because it facilitates human connection across vast distances, making it easier for people to find like-minded individuals and feel like part of something larger than themselves. And this need is so strong that users will risk their personal information and potential harassment to fulfill it. But they don’t have to make that choice. Usenet is an incredible place to connect with new people because it’s easy to find ones who share your interests, is much less tolerant of trolls and bad actors, and is a lot more secure than the majority of social networks.

Finding Friends and Conversations​

One of the best things about Usenet is that it’s incredibly easy to find forums that focus on even the most niche interests. That’s because Usenet is organized into newsgroups that are put into a logical hierarchy. More to the point, they are organized by the Big 8 Hierarchies, a list of eight broad categories that are then broken down into smaller and smaller topics, so you can find the topic that most interests you. Consequently, you’ll also find dedicated communities of people who share the same interests. Many friendships have started on a newsgroup and new ideas have sprung from interactions between passionate people.

Staying Secure on Usenet​

Usenet is one of the safest places to have conversations online for several reasons.

Online Security​

First, data security is a priority on Usenet in a way that it isn’t on other networks. Most Usenet providers include SSL protection on all their connections, which encrypts your data so it can’t be intercepted and read. This also prevents your own Usenet provider from seeing the details of your activity, a security measure bolstered by a consistent no logs policy on most Usenet services.


Usenet is decentralized, meaning that no one company controls all of it. There are a lot of reasons why this is a good thing, including:
  1. If one provider gets hacked, your data could still be entirely safe.
  2. There are lots of options for providers that give you access to the same Usenet (though with different retention rates)
  3. Usenet companies can’t censor your conversations or prevent you from having the discussions you want to have.
  4. Usenet can remain an ad-free service that doesn’t crowd your content with targeted commercials based on your activity.

Additional Security Features​

Finally, Usenet’s commitment to security manifests in the way that more providers are offering additional online safety services like virtual private networks (VPNs), antivirus solutions, and ad blockers. Many come free with different subscription plans and can not only protect your Usenet activity, but also keep you safer on the rest of the Internet.

Over Four Decades of Culture​

Usenet has been around longer than most currently running Internet services, first appearing in 1979. A lot of what we think about as “Internet culture” started on Usenet, and the better parts still flourish there. For example, trolling in newsgroups tends to be a lot lower than on other platforms. There are several reasons for this, including that there is no algorithm that rewards users who make other users angry, but the main reason is that Usenet users tend to quickly work to rectify those types of problems as a community. Moderation is done at the newsgroup level, if at all, and enforced by community members who want to maintain a pleasant atmosphere. This isn’t to say that arguments don’t get heated on Usenet. Passionate people will argue passionately. But even in those cases, many of the biggest issues with centralized social media platforms simply don’t apply. Dogpiling and harassment are also significantly reduced both because of a culture that frowns on it and because the way Usenet works makes it a lot more difficult to organize and implement that kind of attack. It may seem daunting to walk into a forum where the people are infused with a culture that might be older than you, but another good thing about Usenet is that it is incredibly welcoming. Users want more perspectives and are generally happy to answer questions and help new people become acclimated. New users join Usenet every day and find their place in the community.

Bottom Line​

Usenet was the first social network and in many ways is still the best. It’s safer, friendlier, more targeted to your interests, and not obligated to outsiders concerned only with profit. It’s a true community that you should be a part of.