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Usenet: What it is, and How it’s Used

Usenet: What it is, and How it’s Used

Usenet Technical Architecture

Many people have heard of usenet, and often use it on a daily basis. If you haven’t, then here’s the lowdown. Usenet, developed originally as nothing more than a distributed discussion system in 1980, was intended to be the predecessor of the computer BBS (bulletin board system). The purpose of usenet was to provide a way for people from around the world, using the Internet, to discuss topics that were important to them. Since then, usenet has continued to grow. It is still used for communication today, but like all things on the Internet, usenet has a darker side.

The Dark Side of Usenet


Aside from being used as a simple means of communicating and “chatting” with other people with similar interests, usenet has taken on a completely different personality. One that, according to Hollywood executives, threatens to crumble the very fabric of society and mankind. Of course, I’m talking about piracy.

According to statistics produced by the music, movie, and software industry, over $12.5 billion is lost each year because of music piracy, with software pirates depriving the industry of over $59 billion per year. Of course, those numbers are often considered by those “in the know” to be highly inflated, and nothing more than a way to tighten even more the increasingly strict controls big business claims over the Internet.

In reality, the numbers are skewed. Whether or not a song or movie has been downloaded, is absolutely no indication of money lost. That downloaded movie can in no way realistically be considered a lost sale as, as many pirates claim, they would likely have not purchased the title in the first place.

Usenet Services

Usenet, instead of being a singular computer system residing somewhere in the wilds of the Internet, is actually a system of interconnected, yet completely separate server systems that relay information back and forth between uploaders, indexes, and downloaders. In order to access this information a usenet service such as Giganews or Usenet Storm is required.

Some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) offer very limited usenet access to their customers, but most users choose to rely on third-party services like Giganews or Easynews. Simply put, these services allow the user to access all that usenet has to offer, both good and bad. There are small monthly charges for these services, but when compared to the costs of buying a multitude of movies, television series, software titles and music CDs, it is easy to see the allure.

Usenet Software


Usenet software, like SABnzbd (a feature-rich server-side usenet client) is necessary in order to actually use the usenet service. This software allows the user to grab small .nzb files (tiny placeholder files that point the client to the content), and then goes out on the Internet to the proper location and automatically download the content.

For the most part the usenet client itself is free and by itself does not constitute any illegality.

Is Usenet Legal?

As with other things on the Internet (Remember Napster?) there is a gray area when it comes to software that can, and often does, facilitate piracy. Usenet itself is perfectly legitimate and breaks no laws. The legal issues, however, come into play when users begin to download copyrighted material. Copyright issues can be very serious, but for the most part it is only the uploaders who run into problems. Usenet, as mentioned above, is still very much alive in terms of simple communication and chatting, which is perfectly legal and does not constitute piracy. Download movies from usenet, on the other hand, does. It can be a great way to fill a private movie (or music) library, but do so at your own risk.

Usenet Piracy Step-by-Step (or, See How Easy it Is?)

For a more in depth step by step guide you can see our article here: Usenet File Sharing Step by Step.

  1. Sign up for a usenet service like Usenet Storm, Giganews or Easynews.
  2. Download and install a usenet client like SABnzbd.
  3. Sign up for any one of a number of usenet index websites.
  4. Search for and locate the title you’re looking for.
  5. Download a small .nzb file.
  6. Add the .nzb file to the usenet client.
  7. Wait for a while while the client does its magic.
  8. Enjoy the title (Unless you get caught, in which case enjoy your time as Bubba’s cellmate)

Again, don’t try this at home, kids. Piracy is bad. Just don’t do it.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. The High Tech Society, and it’s authors, do not endorse or condone piracy. As a Tech website, we simply strive to bring you information about all things tech-related. What you choose to do with this information is your choice. In other words, if you take this information and then get into trouble for piracy, it’s on you, not us.