Usenet is a massive global distributed discussion forum. Long before web forums and news aggregation sites like Reddit and Digg, users were sharing and discussing content on thousands of subjects via Usenet. The significant difference between both older discussion mechanism (like email discussion lists and BBS discussion board) and newer discussion mechanisms (like web forums and news aggregators) and the Usenet system is that Usenet is the absence of any centralization. New articles and discussion responses are pushed out from their originating server to thousands of servers around the world. If any given server is taken out of the network of global Usenet servers, the other servers simply duplicate the content of that server and route data around the missing node.
Although Usenet was originally a strictly text-based system, enterprising users in the late 1980s began encoding binary files using ASCII text so that their files could be broken up into blocks of Usnet-compatible text and distributed through the Usenet system. While the global Usenet network is still home to tens of thousands of discussion groups on every subject imaginable from pipe smoking to programming, it also houses more than 9 petabytes of shared files at any given time.
For more information about Usenet, check out the following How-To Geek articles on the subject:
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 02/9/13