In our article on January 13 this year, We introduced you to What is Usenet? and its functioning by comparing usenet vs torrent. In this article, I will explore more Usenet features by comparing Usenet to a VPN service.
Usenet is a service much like VPN, but it goes beyond that to function as a fully structured domain that constitutes its own data. In sharp comparison, a VPN is a service that will get you access to other online services. This makes a VPN a means to reach an end, whereas Usenet is the means and the end all wrapped up in one package.
Just so we are clear here, when most people say ‘VPN’, they are referring to the connection they use to connect to their work system at work while they work from home. When I say ‘VPN’, I am talking about the super awesome tunneling system that allows IP switching, data tunneling, hyper encrypting, block bypassing and identity cloaking.
A Usenet software is called a ‘Newsreader’. Why news? This is because Usenet originates from the time when the Bulletin Board System (BBS) was in widespread use and users obtained information by connecting to servers. The servers would remain updated (updates were called news) by sharing information amongst each other in order to ensure that users were able to remain updated at all times. Usenet followed in on the footsteps of the BBS. Hence the terms that vaguely refer to news, but have no actual reference to news headlines.
So where was I? Yes, newsreaders! A Newsreader is your Usenet connection’s dashboard for all intents and purposes. A Newsreader feels and functions much like a torrent download manager (a major reason because of which I chose to compare Usenet to Torrents in my initial article) and will let you download and monitor multiple downloads at a time.
News (or downloadable content as we like to call it) on Usenet servers, is categorized in the following nine major newsgroups. There are other sub-categories, but these nine remain the most and frequently updated/visited. If you are planning on becoming a new Usenet user, then I recommend you start out by exploring these nine major newsgroups before branching into other sub-categories. You will be able to find most of the content you need on these newsgroups.
IMPORTANT DISMISSAL OF COMMON PERCEPTION:
A Usenet software does not allow you to monitor/manage your Usenet connection! All it does for you is download content off the Usenet server and that’s it. If you want to connect to a Usenet server, the absence of a Usenet Newsreader will not restrict your access to the Usenet server.
The VPN that your employer will provide you will function like this:
In this scenario, the VPN is encrypting and tunneling your data traffic when you access your work computer from home or vice-versa. In this case, you know that there are only two points that are to be connected at the ends of the connection i.e. your own computer and your company’s server database.
However, when you set out to use a VPN for internet-wide application, then you are looking at a different scenario. In such cases, you are still connecting to a server every time you require to access a website but you are switching your own IP with one from the server before going out on the internet.
To do this, you need to configure VPN on your internet-enabled device. You can either configure your VPN connection manually, or you can use a VPN client (a software designed by your VPN service provider for your device type).
VPN service providers will provide you software that you can use to manage various features of your VPN connection, such as:
Selecting a VPN server
Selecting a protocol
Monitoring VPN connection status
Lodging support tickets to VPN service provider
Once connected, your VPN connection will essentially cloak your internet session and allow you to access content and websites that implement Geo-IP technology to block access based on region-based access restrictions. Geo-IP blocking allows websites to limit traffic and is often carried out under a banner patronizing the use of licensed content – which makes Geo-IP blocking a convenient way to kill two birds with one stone at best.
Usenet continues to reside in the deep web as services like VPN continue to hog the lime-light. This scenario is further worsened by the fact that an increasing number of Internet Service Providers is choosing to cease Usenet services. However, the fact that netizens are resorting to a seemingly outdated technology (Usenet) is really remarkable.
Of course there is no such thing as an ideal internet. There will always be evil lurking in cyber space, waiting for us to click on that damned ‘download’ button. But the risk of malware and viruses is relatively lesser when using a VPN as it tunnels user data and encrypts it.
In a Usenet, people don’t interact with each other for content exchange. Instead, people interact with servers that in turn interact with each other to facilitate the exchange of information between people. There are no peers involved in the entire upload/download process. This makes Usenet users safe from hack-attacks from fellow Usenet users.
The Road Ahead
Admittedly, Usenet has not gained popularity like other file-sharing technologies have in the past. This is so because Usenet is alive in the part of the internet that is often referred to as ‘the deep web’. The deep web is a part of the internet that a very small percentage of today’s netizens know about.
After having spent decades in deep web, Usenet is seeing slow but steady acceptance as a data sharing technology.
A modern day (perhaps partial) example of Usenet can be found in the availability of content servers provided by Internet service providers. These content servers host content that is available for download to the ISP’s subscribers.
There’s more! The next article will be a tutorial on using Usenet. Slam me with your questions/queries any time and I will add/upgrade them to the article.
When the world sleeps, Danish Pervez is online researching consumer preferences and identifying next-gen trend waves. Experience in IT, combined with his diverse expertise in marketing and research - both traditional and digital - gives him an insight well worth reading and sharing.