Modern computer networking is largely a decentralized affair. For instance, a major outage in one ISP services does not bring down the entire Internet, which is one of the primary strengths of the system. The Usenet system, developed in the 1970s, is also a decentralized form of network. In a Usenet network, users post to social forums called newsgroups. These postings are called articles or, sometimes, simply posts, and they are replicated across the entire network of Usenet servers that carry the newsgroup that applies. A Usenet server administrator can pick and choose what newsgroups to carry and which to exclude.
Users contact Usenet servers through software called a newsreader. This software allows the user to download the newest posts to the groups to which they subscribe and to reply to posts within those newsgroups. The user makes their post locally, on their own machine and, when they are ready to share it, they upload it to the Usenet server. The Usenet server then updates the appropriate newsgroups and gives the post a unique ID. This ID will follow the post as it was replicated across other servers, which happens at regular intervals.
Within the Usenet network, each of the individual servers communicates with others. Some servers are very active and update every couple of minutes – or at even shorter intervals – and communicate with many different servers. Other servers are smaller and only update and communicate with one or two other servers. There is no central server, however. Within the Usenet system, all of the servers are equal and all of them can communicate with and update one another. In the past, most every ISP had their own news servers. Today, news servers are usually maintained by third-parties that provide Usenet service for a free, though some servers are free.
The Usenet system has been in continuous use for over 30 years. The system is older than the consumer Internet and even predates BBSs. The technology behind the Usenet, however, has never really become obsolete. These servers are still exchanging information today and the amount of posting to newsgroups has actually increased. The simple interface likely makes it popular with some of these new users. Usenet operates on a simple and effective technology model that makes it possible for any user post to be replicated worldwide within a few hours and, in some cases, far less time than that.
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