In today’s digital landscape, we have the unrealistic notion that data is limitless and eternal. Further, nomenclature like “the cloud” only adds fuel to the fiction. In reality, all information, even digital ones, must live in physical form.
For the case of Usenet, where its users consistently exchange massive amounts of information, content lives in remote servers and always has. The texts and binaries uploaded and downloaded by its user base require resources to store. Energy, space, and maintenance contribute to the variation in cost as more data is saved. That is why older content is regularly flushed to make room for new data.
Retention: The Solution to Space Rationing
Retention rate is the number of days a Usenet provider will keep uploaded content in its servers. This number, usually denoted in days, indicates how long a text or binary file is accessible by subscribers of newsgroups. It is Usenet’s clever way of rationing resources to maintain its services in a sustainable way.
This number consequently also determines the amount of hardware and software a provider maintains. Retention is Usenet’s providers’ solution to manage data affordably, all while informing its user base of the anticipated lifespan of their favorite articles.
Why It Matters to You
When shopping for a provider, you will come across retention rate as a key offering. As mentioned, the retention rate will indicate the length of time content remains available to find, access, and download. Before settling for any Usenet provider, here are a couple of important things to know regarding the offered retention.
Current top providers offer upwards of 4000+ days of binary retention. With this number, you can be confident in finding content over a decade old. While there was a time where providers would ration their retention to 1000 days, with today’s evolving technology landscape, it is more feasible to store and manage information. In consequence, you will find top providers racing to grow this number with each passing day.
Obviously, 4000+ days is at the high-end of the current spectrum of the market. While it is more affordable than it used to be, not all providers can offer such competitive rates.
It is also worth mentioning that many users are satisfied with low retention as long as they can access newer content. However, with a little bit of research, you can find affordable providers that will match, or come very close to this rate. So there isn’t truly a reason for you to compromise for less.
Furthermore, what may be more important than the number of retention days, is getting a provider that is actively growing their retention rate. If older content is not a priority for you, perhaps having access to the content you see today without an expiration date is. A provider that indicates their intent to actively grow this number indicates that the content you see today will most likely be available for the foreseeable future.
Binary vs. Text Retention
There are a lot of fantastic free newsreaders. There are some that are paid software. There are some that are part of or require recurring payments. Finding the right balance between cost and features is going to depend on your specific needs, and those may also change as you spend more time on Usenet.
Sometimes, Usenet providers will advertise their retention rate in terms of text retention without being explicit. This can be deceptive as their binary retention rate will be far less. Ensure that you are aware of the exact figure for both text and binary retention offered by your chosen provider.
Additional Retention Rules
There are couple of other rules in terms of retention that providers may go by explicitly or behind the scenes.
Some providers pull articles from third party partnered providers to combat the lack of specific content. This is not necessarily a bad thing since providers can partner by sharing storage space all while providing competitive prices for their users. However, you may find there to be some speed differences from one download to another.
Popular retention means that only popular files are kept for the claimed retention period. That is to say, if a provider advertises for 4000 days of popular retention, it will only keep a file in its server for 4000 days if it is requested and downloaded enough by its users.
Full Binary Retention
Full binary retention simply means that the rate offered is reflective of all their binary content. This also means that the files are all stored locally (not cached).
Retention rate is an important metric to look for when choosing a Usenet provider. It will ultimately determine the richness of the service you are paying for. When shopping for a provider, it is also important to dig out the type of retention they are advertising, since not all of them mean “Full Binary Retention”.