I’ve been wondering of late if that will ultimately be the greatest contribution of the net to history — that it provides a cheap, reasonably accessible, mechanism for multi-way international colmmunication.
– Steve Bellovin; Usenet/history/1985-1990; 10 Oct 1990.
The equality of access to those with the appropriate technological means and mind grants great liberties and opportunities, but concurrently with freedom comes the possibility for its abuse, an abuse that the ‘lawless’ society of the ‘net may seem ill-fit to deal with.
Yet for a society without laws, the Internet functions with an incredible fluidity. You can say _anything_ on Usenet, (even advertise,) yet while there are no written rules as to _how_you_can_say_it_, the ‘net regulates itself well enough to avoid collapse.
– Cal Woods; The Ethics of Usenet Etiquette; 1994.
The Usenet leverages many of the key Internet features. The key features of the Usenet itself are facilitation of group collaboration in a common virtual space, as described below.
- Group communications. The Usenet is a powerful facilitator of group communication across time and geographic space. One person can post a message on the Usenet, another person reply to it, and a third person reply to either message, no matter where they are in the world, and whenever is convenient to them.
Usenet messages are organized in newsgroups and threads that are stored in Usenet archives indefinitely for later retrieval by anyone that wishes to access them, even years later, connecting people across generations.
Mailing lists, IRC, and MUD’s also provide group communications, although on a lessor scale.
- Common space. The Usenet is the second largest common public space in existence, next to the Internetitself. Anyone can post anything they wish to any newsgroup, and anyone can read any message they wish from any newsgroup.
Like most common spaces, the Usenet therefore reflects the best and worst of human nature, from community newsgroups where people are focused on selflessly helping each other, to less worthwhile groups where the postings are filled with pointless and counterproductive information.
Like most common spaces, messages posted on the Usenet are public property and can be freely copied and reused in other sources, although Usenet netiquette mandates that credit should always be provided.