Usenet World Map by the 90’s
Originally uploaded by Lulobyte

In the days before the World Wide Web, the best way to procrastinate on the Internet was probably Usenet.

(If you don’t know it, it’s basically hierarchical discussions ordered by topic. You can read Usenet newsgroups for instance by using Thunderbird and the Eternal September newsserver.)

At first, the advent of the WWW didn’t really threaten Usenet, but Wikipedia and the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter caused a lot of people to leave Usenet. I was one of them — I didn’t post anything from 2007 until last month.

However, I then decided to go back and have a quick look at my favourite newsgroup, dk.kultur.sprog, and to be honest it was really nice to be back. It’s actually better than it used to be, because it appears the trolls have mainly disappeared off to pastures new.

However, I must admit using Usenet is a pain these days. Using Google Groups to access Usenet isn’t as good as using a dedicated reader, but using a specialised tool for one social media just feels wrong (and yes, these days Usenet would have been considered a social network). Also, the Usenet is just text, and it’s sometimes annoying you can’t easily attach images and sound files or use HTML tags.

I can’t help thinking somebody should reinvent Usenet, because the discussions you can have there are superior to what you can do on newspaper website comments sections, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter or Branch.