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AOL Pulls Plug on Usenet

 2:57 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Will Webmasters that promote through Usenet be affected?


AOL is pulling the plug on servers hosting newsgroups. AOL subscribers will no longer be able to access such groups directly...



 6:48 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

And the "September that never ended" is finally ending...


Original Post:


 7:42 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

CritterNYC hit the nail on the head.

AOL closing down their USENET connection is indeed a major milestone.

I remember before AOL was on the net... back when there was no spam on USENET, when discussions were intelligent.. you know, when we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to school.

I believe that the AOLization of the internet is a major event in the 'nets lifetime. AOL connecting to USENET was a major part of that. I remember when AOL users began to show up on IRC. People didn't like this at all. Their arguments back then for why AOL users shouldn't be allowed on the internet went like this:

AOL is like CB Radio in its heyday-- anyone can use it and it takes virtually no skill to operate it. There are only 40 channels and most are full of people experimenting and learning to communicate using the radio. There are some "pros" on there, but they are far and few between.

Now some people liked CB radio so much (or were so frustrated by the fact that it was clogged up by abusers, as is the case now) that they wanted more. They turned to Amateur Radio, which had been around longer then CB radio and requires people to take a test to become licensed by the FCC in order to operate.

Before AOL, the internet was like Amateur Radio-- anyone can use it but you have to learn a thing or two before you can operate it. There is an almost unlimited spectrum of frequencies and modes that you could choose from and there are communities all over the world to help you along your way as you use it. But there was that test, that you had to learn a thing or two to even use it in the first place, that filtered out people who didn't care enough to "pass it." That test imbued a sense of community and respect into the users for the system and that is why, to this day, CB radio is virtually unusable for citizens (as opposed to truckers, atleast in the states) whereas Amateur Radio has prospered. These days Amateur Radio operators build and launch special amateur radio satellites into orbit-- the international space station has amateur radio experiments on it. There are even plans for Amateur Radio equipment to be sent to orbit Mars. Amateur Radio has even provided and continues to provide emergency communications during things like 9/11 and the recent tsunamis, and these are just a few things that Amateur Radio has accomplished or contributed.

Now, when AOL turned on their "internet gateway" they unleashed the world of CB into amateur radio. Suddenly millions of people who would otherwise be in a sandbox to experiment in are now flinging sand all over the place and getting everyone dirty. If CB had been combined with Amateur Radio in this manner the world would never have seen Amateur Radio satellites (there are 15 in orbit that are currently operational)--and can you imagine CB being used on the International Space Station?! Would Amateur Radio continue to be viable for use in providing emergency communications?

USENET and IRC users knew AOL users would create a problem, and they were right. However what wasn't foreseen was that some people began taking advantage of these AOL users en masse- AOL users for the most part didn't know what they were doing on the open net so they were perfect targets for junk mail, popups, misleading ads and adware. AOL users were so fresh to the 'net that they didn't grasp the concept that they could get junk mail in the EMAIL box just like they could with their POSTAL box and AOL users didn't know to differentiate between pop-up ads and web pages, just as they would differentiate between infomercials and television shows. After all, "You've got mail!" was an announcement they looked forward to, not expecting to get it every time they signed in because their inboxes were always full of spam. AOL users clicked the links, bought the products and launched the spam industry.

Though the number of people susceptible to spam and adware is finally shrinking, the facts are that spam and such is made for the type of users AOL brought to the internet. We've all been made to suffer because of this. AOL killed the internet as we knew it. We shouldn't blame AOL specifically though because it could easily have been Prodigy or another "online service" that ended up dumping millions of people into the internet ocean without life preservers or shark repellant. I just wish that AOL had taken more pains to separate their "sandbox" from the rest of the playground-- perhaps moderating their users as they connected to the 'net and eventually granting them a "full internet pass" or something of that sort.

The bottom line though, is that we all had to earn *our* "passes" through things like VT100 terminals, PPP and SLIP. Would the internet be a different place today if AOL had made sure their users earned their "passes" too?

/rant off.


 8:30 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think the spamming of Usenet will decrease because of the reduction of "uninitiated" users as celerityfm suggests.

I also believe the Usenet will continue to thrive and potentially open up or allow it to come the the front, the "soft" promotion of web sites.


 8:58 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Typical post by an AOL user to Usenet in the early 90ies:

"Me too!"

Followed by the complete quote of the original message :-)

On second thought: PRECEDED by the complete quote of the original message.


 9:18 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Typical post by an AOL user to Usenet in the early 90ies:

"Me too!"

Followed by the complete quote of the original message :-)

On second thought: PRECEDED by the complete quote of the original message.

Me, too!


 9:22 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Heheh too true guys, too true.

Though I'd like to add-- its not the AOL users that I have a problem with, its more like AOL itself that I had the problem with. As I said, if AOL had done more to educate its users maybe we'd all have gotten along better :)

It will be interesting to see the impact on USENET though... makes me nostalgic for my alt. favorite groups :)

Back before moderated groups were a neccesity.... *sings* memmmoriesssss


 9:24 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

CompuServe had a close call too. Only their service was too expensive and their "Internet Gateway" (lol) was too complicated to use.

However, I have the impression that CompuServe users always were a little bit more educated compared to the AOL users.


 11:11 pm on Jan 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

Q: Why was webTV created?
A: To give AOL users something to look down on.


 3:42 am on Jan 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Funny, but the "Me too!" type of users were around even when we used UUCP for Usenet, or before that for BBS... & AOL wasn't even dreamt of back then...


 5:02 am on Jan 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Irrespective of the skill level of AOL users, it is still objectionable that access to newsgroups be choked down to the googlenews interface. Especially the new version. Given that the excuse for eliminating newsgroups was lack of use, it should not have been a burden to leave the nntp servers up.

I wonder if AOL has a adsense commission deal for traffic originating from their proxy servers. Not hard to do the accounting from either end because these are well known and limited ip ranges.

An good ISP should provide ip transport. Period.

This is just another in a long line of examples of balkanisation of the internet.


 10:08 am on Jan 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Heh, as long as we're into the nostalgia, remember the "Good Times Virus" hoax? It's a shame Microsoft had to take a good prank and turn it into an expensive, destructive reality.


 10:53 am on Jan 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

You will however be able to access Usenet newsgroups via Internet Explorer, or Google [..].

That's a bit clueless. I'd use a newsclient and connect to one of the many freely available Usenet servers. So IMHO there is no real problem for AOL users who really want to use Usenet.

Maybe the impact of AOL shutting down their servers isn't that dramatic, because quite a number of users will search for alternative servers?


 2:43 pm on Jan 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

Given that the excuse for eliminating newsgroups was lack of use

And the exact quote was "An AOL spokesman said the service is being withdrawn because so few people use it," and my first reaction was: well of course no one uses it anymore...now that you've ruined it!

/planet of the apes



 2:35 am on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

>Will Webmasters that promote through Usenet be affected?

As the likely the biggest Usenet rat around here, I can answer your question directly: NO.


"The move to drop AOL next month comes as usage of the service has shrunk to
fewer than 1,000 users a month. AOL has some 23 million subscribers in the
United States alone."

For all practical purposes, people using the horribly broken AOL Usenet interface were non-existent. The vast majority of AOLers on Usenet used
news.individual.net, Google Groups, or a premium Usenet provider.

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