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Microsoft

Microsoft to do for Usenet what it did for Email & The Web? 437

tjones2 writes "Seems like Microsoft isn't content with sad state of email these days. They now want to "make engaging with communities easier and friendlier". This means extending their reach into Usenet." Fortunately most of Usenet is such a cespool that really they can only make it better. And after cornering the market on email worms, imagine the benefits they can bring to NNTP!
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Microsoft to do for Usenet what it did for Email & The Web?

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  • by havaloc ( 50551 ) * on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:03AM (#6599790) Homepage
    If you know where to look, and what you are looking for, usenet is ok. It kind of has that wild west, last frontier kind of charm.
    btw, if you hate having to decode stuff by hand with the various newsreaders, www.easynews.com is great for various binaries
    • Why didn't Microsoft do this years ago? This seems like a pretty obvious thing to do, simplify Usenet for the mom & pop types who could still get some use out of it but are scared by its current format...
    • Google already does this to a certain degree, although I don't know if their Activity ranking takes into account replies to topics or just number of messages or what. If you look at the Google Groups listings you'll see a rough measure of their activity as shown by a green bar. For example, if you look at the rec.arts.comics.* hierarchy you'll see rac.xbooks has no activity. And sure enough, if you go to that group you'll see 2 posts from 2003, 8 from 2002, and a handful of older ones. rac.european has an
      • by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @01:00PM (#6600746) Homepage

        From the rumors we've heard about Microsoft dumping tons of money into improving their search engine, and integrating it into the next version of Windows, I don't think the "Google has already done this" argument is going to slow them down.

        While Linux is probably Microsoft's number one threat in the business world, I would guess sites like Google (privately held) are close to the top of the list on the home front. There's a lot of power to be had if you can funnel millions of internet users through your search engine or portal. This is what Microsoft is trying to do.

        If they can clue the masses into Usenet in such a way that users think that they need Microsoft software in order to do Usenet, they'll control millions of people's access to Usenet, and to some degree Usenet itself.

        • Bzzzzt! AOL (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MyHair ( 589485 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:53PM (#6602304) Journal
          If they can clue the masses into Usenet in such a way that users think that they need Microsoft software in order to do Usenet, they'll control millions of people's access to Usenet, and to some degree Usenet itself.

          If that were true, AOL would've controlled Usenet a long time ago.

          Furthermore, MSN is the default startup homepage on 90% or 95% or whatever of browsers, and yet Google rules the web search.
      • by Malfourmed ( 633699 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:20PM (#6602141) Homepage
        Maybe Google should explain better how the Activity rating works

        See, there's these pigeons...

    • Yeah, but if microsoft wants to play a part in usenet they need to get the bugs out of their Outlook Express. I use grabit because OE freezes all the time trying to decode files that are contained in more than 100 posts. Also, it can't even decode yEnc.
    • by antiMStroll ( 664213 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:31AM (#6600312)
      Usenet is still one of the best computer support resources available and Google Groups has unearthed the solution to innumerable problems for me. Like Slashdot, be prepared to sift through a lot of misinformation to find your answer, but Usenet has the advantage of not having moderators push the wrong one up. Usenet's division into areas of interest also helps me discover new music constantly, and there are some real vibrant communities online. One good example is alt.binaries.pictures.aviation. The irony is that Microsoft deliberately chose not to support Usenet a decade ago. Decoding binaries in Windows has long been a trivial exercise with third party software such as Xnews, Agent99 or FreeAgent. Setting it up is usually no harder than typing 'news.mysip.com' in a config field. My guess is their desperation for any new growth area is leading them to revisit Usenet as a 'feature'.

      For those who haven't tried Usenet, don't believe the 'cesspool' hype. My ISP provides over 30,000 Usenet groups, most of which never see posts. Some groups are cesspools of viagra, porn and evidence eliminator spam, but 30,000 unmoderated Slashdots would be no different. Check out Fuckedcompany.com's online forums if you think cesspools are a Usenet-only phenomenum.

      • by cesspool ( 258640 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @12:21PM (#6600567) Homepage
        you keep saying 'cesspool' like its a bad thing ???
      • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @12:22PM (#6600572)
        Are you kidding? The whole reason why everybody thinks the Linux community is full of elitist is because of usenet! IRC and usenet happen to be the last places with Linux elitists. And where do newbies go look for help? IRC and usenet.
        • by Goth Biker Babe ( 311502 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @01:54PM (#6600994) Homepage Journal
          So what's wrong with some elitism. Internet mail, usenet and IRC all came from the UNIX world. They were developed by geeks for geeks. Linux has nothing to do with it. I was using them first on a VAX mainframe. It appears that it's Linux elitist because generally users with clue use Linux on their home machines. But having said that I know plenty of windows users who hate top posting, insufficient trimming of quotes and the like. This is because they started on line using DOS and such practices were highly inconvenient when using DOS too. The elitism comes from those who used the net in the early days and those who have got the AOL CD on the door mat. It's a lack of understanding which can be sorted with polite education.

          Why change usenet? It doesn't need changing. It works.

          Usenet is like a mass of pubs. Some pubs you like, others you don't. Some are the olde worlde pubs that sell real ale, others sell mass produced beer and you can buy chip butties, others are more like wine bars and others are where the lager louts hang out. If you don't like your local you go somewhere else, you don't try and change it.

          I am subscribed to several groups. We are all types of users, some newbies, some not. There are strict rules about the groups laid down in the group's charter. It's only twats who leap in without lurking for a while and who haven't read the charter who get stick. Usually they are helped politely first and it's only if they are beligerant do they get hassled. Most of the time the groups are nice happy families.

          You wouldn't go to a pub and leap in to conversations without testing the water. So why do it on line.
        • by Joe Tie. ( 567096 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:02PM (#6601328)
          I strongly disagree with that. When I was first switching over from Windows to Linux, the answer to every problem I had came from usenet. If the answer didn't come up from searching in the various Linux groups, without exception I received very courtious replies trying to help me out. Often I'd have the answer within an hour or two of posting. I think it all depends on where you're asking, and how the question is put out there. I'm sure one could find a lot of elitist comunities out there, but with a little looking one can just as easily find very useful and polite groups.
      • by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:27PM (#6601937) Homepage
        Well, Microsoft (and Bill Gates) _did_ use Usenet in the past: http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=8642%40micros oft.UUCP&output=gplain [google.com]. And Bill is posting from another guy's account. :-))
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @12:23PM (#6600576)
      If you know where to look, and what you are looking for, usenet is ok.

      Exactly: it's great, but only if you know where to look. Sounds as though Microsoft's ideas on this one are steps in the right direction. I'm a Usenet veteran, but still find it difficult to identify a group that's relevant to me when I first want to explore a new subject.

      For bonus marks, if they could just get people to understand that it's polite to read the FAQ before posting (and make the FAQ an obvious link somewhere) and that following local customs and keeping on-topic also go a long way, they'd be ahead of everyone else who currently offers Usenet access. A group with influence of Microsoft could do a lot to improve the signal/noise ratio on some newsgroups. Extending their reach into Usenet isn't necessarily a bad thing.

      Ill-informed editorial comments like Taco's don't help much, BTW. Most newsgroups actually are pretty good these days, as long as there's one where your interest is on-topic and you have decent filtering in your client to cut out the noise. I've found worthwhile groups on various technical subjects, all of my major hobbies, my local area and more. We can do without putting off people who might be genuinely interested in reading and/or contributing to such groups with juvenile statements like Taco's.

      • by miu ( 626917 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:58PM (#6601546) Homepage Journal
        Most newsgroups actually are pretty good these days, as long as there's one where your interest is on-topic and you have decent filtering in your client to cut out the noise.

        Change 'most' to 'many' and I agree with you. The quality of discussion in a foucused news group is far higher than that in a mailing list or web log.

        So the problems to solve for users come down to: finding 'good' groups, finding 'good' articles, discovering 'friends', monitoring threads, and ignoring 'foes'.

        Those problems have been solved by a large number of newsreaders in the form of scorefiles, killfiles, and a group listing view that accepts wildcards. One problem is that normal human beings cannot use any of those features - because their naive newsreader does not support them or the interface is a windowized version of 'rn'. This is accidental complexity and is the sort of UI and standardization problem MS is good at solving. Another problem is that for the user to communicate their definition of "good" in a meaningful way is difficult. This is inherently complex; explaining what is "good" to a human being is difficult, much less a computer program.

        I wish them luck, but they had better fucking leave 'html' and 'rich text' out of their news reader - completely. As in: do not even make it an option that can be turned on for posting and don't render it for reading.

        • they had better [effing] leave 'html' and 'rich text' out of their news reader

          Good News: They probably will.

          Bad News: They will probably push MS Word .doc formatting instead. :-(

          This has been information from out of my ass. Thank you.
          • by miu ( 626917 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @07:14PM (#6602416) Homepage Journal
            The reason I say "they had better" make plaintext the only option is that the perception of their users will be colored by their first experiences posting. If they post with .doc or rtf or html they will probably be asked to post in plain text. Depending on the group that request may be phrased in a very hostile manner.

            So if a user's first post is "Hey everybody, I share your interest in foo. My stationary has unicorns on it. Hooray!". And the response is "Don't %$#'ing ever post binary attachments here again you %#$%'er!", then the user could easily decide Usenet is scary and rude and go back to the safety of their favorite web forum or mailing list.

    • by Motherfucking Shit ( 636021 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @12:34PM (#6600629) Journal
      I've always thought that Microsoft brought quite a bit of entertainment value to Usenet newsgroups. There's nothing like loading up alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.$YOUR_TASTE and seeing a post thusly:
      From: Jason Doe <jason@example.com>
      Subject: Writing In Sick

      Bob,

      I haven't been feeling well lately. I will probably be staying home today and perhaps tomorrow unless I feel better. Please tell Mark that I will be completing my assignments as soon as I get back to the office. I hope to be back Monday but it may be later than that before I'm feeling OK again.

      Thanks,

      Jason

      --
      Jason Doe
      Senior Programmer
      ABC Corporation, Inc.
      202-555-1212 Ext. 555
      jason@example.com
      Microsoft(TM), we combine your email and newsgroup program into one. To which porno newsgroup do you want to accidentally send your personal email today?
      • Microsoft's Outlook-based newsreader has a means of auto-detecting UU-encoded postings. Unfortunately it is an incredibly stupid method that simply checks for the presence of the word "begin" at the start of a line, followed by two spaces, which can cause all kinds of problems. Rather than fix such a grevious and utterly stupid error, Microsoft has offered the workaround "tell people not to have non UU-encoded postings with that line in it".

        Brilliant. Also typical Microsoft. Tell the rest of the world to accomidate their stupidity.
        • Brilliant. Also typical Microsoft. Tell the rest of the world to accomidate their stupidity.

          The reason motherboards are specifically forbidden (PCsomeyear or other) from allowing users to switch between APM and ACAPI is because Windows has a piss-poor architecture WRT ACAPI that has totally different sets of code that run in an ACAPI and non-ACAPI environment.

          As a result, everyone's stuck with buying a motherboard that only supports one or the other.

          You have no *idea* the amount of third-party poor engi
  • This is all an evil plot by Microsoft. They want more e-mail addresses in the hands of spammers, so they can sell their new upcoming anti-spam software.
  • by bihoy ( 100694 ) * on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:05AM (#6599799)
    Hmm, what could be the news group with the most activity? Let's search for groups with the word "pictures" in them and I'll bet we find out.
  • by SUPAMODEL ( 601827 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:05AM (#6599802)
    ... I see you are browsing alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.hornyteens
    Would you like:
    * tissues
    * baby oil
    * a life
    * or me to fuck off
    ?
  • Me2-4Me! (Score:5, Funny)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:07AM (#6599811)

    Now, as a time-saving measure, right next to the "post reply" button, there will be a "Me Too" button, and a "Send me the link username@hotmail.com" button. :^)

    Ryan Fenton
  • by cioxx ( 456323 )
    Is there a segment or a part in the computing industry that Microsoft doesn't want to control with half-done software?

    Who the hell visits usenet for news anymore? What are they trying to do.. make downloading pirated material easier?
    • I guess that defines on how you define "news". Ask the editors here what "news for nerds" is - people seem to be complaining about the "news" and "stuff that matters" that appears on /. all of the time.
    • I already have that covered. My spiders easily dig through Usenet and put together all the bits of binaries they find and save them for me. I don't even have to do anything as painful as trying to read the posts. It's Gnutella for people that have been online long enough to know Usenet exists. ;)
    • by Go Aptran ( 634129 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:15AM (#6599872)
      Or perhaps they're trying trying to get an idea of how much and what type of pirated material is downloaded?

      They want to "discover" who uses newsgroups and how often they come back. Hmm...

      • Check out this version of the tool:
        http://netscan.research.microsoft.com/Stati c/Defau lt.asp? (beware the slashdot space)

        Handy as all hell, if you want to examine overall trends, including for your own posts... you mentioned tracking who uses what newsgroups? Easy to do, and the results are well-organized. But I was rather surprised to see that it respects "X-No-Archive:Yes" (the article and header are unavailable, tho it's listed in the thread view).

    • by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:47AM (#6600376) Homepage Journal
      Who the hell visits usenet for news anymore?

      Actually I've found that as the signal/noise ratio on sites such as Slashdot have decreased with all of the AC posting and such, usenet groups such as comp.lang. have become much more useful because the signal to noise ratio has increased significantly. On usenet, questions are answered by folks who typically know the answer rather than the pure drivel and conjecture that we are seeing more on Slashdot.

      • by Angry Pixie ( 673895 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:29PM (#6601946) Journal
        USENET isn't worthwhile only to porn addicts, pirates, and geaks. Those of us in the social sciences use it quite often. There are some very good communities on USENET for discussions of international politics, economics issues, etc. USENET is also great for some entertainment. There are a lot of active groups with a great sense of community that meet to discuss hobbies like art collection, carpentry, or even train wrecks like the Anna Nicole show.

        In addition to BWJones' comments, USENET is often much more efficient than equivalent web-based forums. I don't have to deal with cookies, improperly formatted HTML, binary advertisements, etc. If the answer is there on USENET, I'll surely find it faster than if I were to navigate a website.
    • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @02:22PM (#6601136)
      They don't want to control usenet.

      They will produce their own usenet like service running on windows servers that will not be compatible with any of the news readers on the market.

      They want to steal usenet like they stole kerberos. Take other peoples ideas, break them so that they are not standards compliant, sell servers, lock more users to outlook and windows desktop.

      The world is the R&D dept for MS. Any useful thing anybody comes up with will be assimilated into the MS environment.
  • ...people could find a way to hide email addresses in news groups. If they did that, then there'd be a major reduction in spam. Then maybe I'd be able to reuse 1 of my email addresses.
  • hands off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:09AM (#6599826)
    if usenet was supposed to be friendly it would have been designed that way :-)

    Seriously, usenet is supposed to be distributed and resiliant to poor communications and have no choke points that would slow operation. All of the MS ideas would seem to introduce complication, choke points and remove much of the resiliance.

    Hey Microsoft, what did you innovate today?
    • Re:hands off (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spudley ( 171066 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:18AM (#6599889) Homepage Journal
      usenet is supposed to be distributed and resiliant to poor communications and have no choke points

      Then it's failed, because the indescribably poor communication commonly called "spam" has all but choked it.

      I haven't bothered with Usenet for several years simply because of the quantity of junk. Not to mention the quality :-(
      • Re:hands off (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bluGill ( 862 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:51AM (#6600401)

        I get about 50 spam messages a day in my email. I read several usenet groups, and see total of 5 a week on the busy weeks. Even then they are easy to weed out from the subject line, and rarely cross all groups.

        I'll agree that the quality varies, but then it does everywhere else too. Those opinioniated people are everywhere in real life. Once I see a thread dropping into something that doesn't interest me it is very easy to skip the rest of the thread. This isn't Spam, because it is individual people (often 10 or 20) with strong opinions in one thread. Ignore the thread and you ignore the entire conversation. Much easier than email.

      • Re:hands off (Score:3, Informative)

        by McDutchie ( 151611 )

        usenet is supposed to be distributed and resiliant to poor communications and have no choke points

        Then it's failed, because the indescribably poor communication commonly called "spam" has all but choked it.

        I haven't bothered with Usenet for several years simply because of the quantity of junk. Not to mention the quality :-(

        If you use a decently run news server, you almost never have to see a single spam message. I use the public news server at DFN-CIS [cis.dfn.de] in Germany (requires free registration) and all I

      • choked? (Score:3, Informative)

        by poptones ( 653660 )
        So, you haven't "bothered" with the place in years because "you know" what's there sucks?

        Three months ago I posted a 'real" (disposable) email address in a sex group. Then I did it a few more times. Since then I have received TWO spams to that address - in contrast to what I considered a "permanent" email address that apparently got into the hands of one of those allegedly "opt in" sex site lists about six months ago and is now utterly useless due to the dozens of spams the box gets every single day (more

    • Re:hands off (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Seriously, usenet is supposed to be distributed and resiliant to poor communications and have no choke points that would slow operation. All of the MS ideas would seem to introduce complication, choke points and remove much of the resiliance.

      If you look at the interface at you'll see an implementation of the idea of classifying newsgroups by their active "membership" (there is no membership, of course, since everyone is free to post whenever they like and disappear into the wind as they please) and the n
    • Layers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Craig Ringer ( 302899 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:29AM (#6599971) Homepage Journal
      Everything they're talking about there can be done locally at an NNTP server, at least as I read it, and won't affect the wider usenet. So it's more user-interface work and work on a server with a different set of design goals to the current NNTP servers.

      I'm all for it. You'll need a proxy server to protect the Exchange box running the MS-NNTP server from direct access by scary things like non-Lookout news readers of course. It sounds like an interesting idea though, and perhaps some of the better / more useful ideas might propagate to other NNTP software.
  • by GammaTau ( 636807 ) <jni@iki.fi> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:11AM (#6599835) Homepage Journal
    1. Download and install slrn [sf.net]
    2. Make a "kill-file" with the following content:
      [*]
      Score: -10000
      X-Newsreader: Microsoft
    3. Enjoy amazing signal-to-noise ratio on your favorite newsgroups
  • This sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:11AM (#6599836)
    Usenet is an open system that has been that way for years. We don't need microsoft going and adding their proprietary crap into usenet.

    Usenet is one thing that hasn't changed much in recent times. You can find anything on usenet. It was the first place you could find massive amounts of mp3s. The first place for full movies and cd images. There's more free porn on usenet then someone could even dream of sorting through.

    Usenet is many things to many people. Outside the binary areas there are some great discussions taking place and some excellent ideas constantly evolving.

    We don't need microsoft changing standards around and screwing things up.. Luckily most usenet servers are old unix boxes and so they won't be able to do much harm to nntp. This still scares me though that they may try..
    • Re:This sucks (Score:3, Informative)

      by blakestah ( 91866 )
      RTFA.

      Microsoft's social engineers have been analyzing Usenet for a long time, and they are providing their clients with benefits from this analysis. Things like better search engines, better ordering of newsgroups, better ordering of threads (by activity, for example).

      Anyway, nothing in this mentions any changing of standards by Microsoft, or changing of Usenet protocol.

      Of course I cannot
      begin to tell you how much fun the old begin
      bug is.

  • by jetmarc ( 592741 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:12AM (#6599844)
    Well, as a long time internet participant, I recall quite good what
    AOL did to usenet: Aquire a hord of "Me too" follow-up posters.
    Actually, a quick google-groups research shows that of the 32,000
    postings that contain "me too", a whopping 30,600 also contain the
    word "AOL".

    So I question - what can Microsoft do to usenet? I suspect, nothing
    nice. Probably their efforts result in even more MIME/HTML postings,
    with binaries attached in non-binary groups (probably something like
    "My Signature.exe"). And certainly a lot of proprietarily encapsulated
    text, such as .DOC rich text attached to an otherwise empty posting.

    On one hand, usenet is for everyone, including Microsoft users. On
    the other hand, I really hope that google-groups will filter them off
    so that usenet can stay the valuable source of accurate tech information
    that it is today.

    Marc
    • by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:24AM (#6599939) Homepage


      correlation != causation. Maybe there are a lot of people saying that AOL users say "me too" a lot. Had this discussion taken place on usenet, we would have incremented the count by two, yet neither one of us are aol users. ;)
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:18AM (#6600246) Homepage Journal
      So I question - what can Microsoft do to usenet? I suspect, nothing nice. Probably their efforts result in even more MIME/HTML postings, with binaries attached in non-binary groups (probably something like "My Signature.exe"). And certainly a lot of proprietarily encapsulated text, such as .DOC rich text attached to an otherwise empty posting.

      Do I detect ^M in you text? ;)

      Yes, Microsoft provide few other alternatives for this rude kind of behavior. I see it in the "easy" groups like Yahooo groups I'm a member of. Microsoft users consitantly post crap in .DOC format instead of splitting out text and images, the same way they do email. It would be forgivable, but they make no effort even when told that others, including other Microsoft users with almost the same software, can not read the files they are trying to share. All of the Micrsoft defaults are to RUDE, word as an "editor" of email, email in "html" format or "rich text", it's really a challenge for the user to not be rude and once things are set they are very dificult to undo. Typical M$.

      Microsoft, by encouraging their users to venture into the "difficult" world of usenet, will force all of these things along.

      The answer it fix the user. Provide detailed instructions on how to undo M$'s rude defaults in a place where they can be pointed to. The M$ abusers will find themselves shunned and locked in a little M$ ghetto devoid of cluefull and polite people.

    • What can MS do to usenet? What about:

      Hi! How are you?
      I send you this usenet posting in order to have your advice.
      See you later. Thanks.
    • So I question - what can Microsoft do to usenet? I suspect, nothing nice. Probably their efforts result in even more MIME/HTML postings, with binaries attached in non-binary groups (probably something like "My Signature.exe").
      Nice. Now we know what will be the cause of the next big internet worm, MS's USENET client auto executing signatures.....
  • Uh-oh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by feidaykin ( 158035 )
    Just wait until MS makes Usenet popular enough that the RIAA notices people can trade MP3s there.

    And just wait until your parents find out you can download PORN from Usenet!!! OH GOD NOOOO!!! THE END IS NEAR!!!

    [/joke]

  • Google? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by groove10 ( 266295 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:17AM (#6599880) Homepage
    What will the effect be on groups.google.com [google.com] be if Microsoft begins to take over Usenet?

    Personally, I don't even use a normal newsreader program, but just peruse using google. I find the info I want (typically tech help on linux) and then that's it. You can even post to newsgroups through google.
  • AAArrrgh!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:20AM (#6599907)
    This is very bad news for Usenet. In the beginning, USEnet was a haven for people with the persistence and intelligence necessary to figure out how to use it, and it was good. Flamewars were minimal, people were respectful, and knowledge flowed freely. Then AOL, WebTV, and their ilk came along and lowered the barriers to entry. The quality of discussion went down, the quantity went up, and USEnet became a lot less USEful than it had been. I feel like that situation has improved slightly, at least in the text-only discussion groups. But if MS makes it possible for every dingbat melonhead with a modem to get on it, it's going to get much worse.

    I'm probably being elitist, but I like it when it takes a little effort and intelligence to be able to participate in a discussion. I know that the people on a newsgroup are at least slightly more advanced (usually) than their ICQ-going friends, and that better discussions will result.

    The other thing is that USEnet has (so far) been flying below the **AA's radar as far as file sharing and software IP ifringement go. If they all of a sudden turn their attention towards it, USEnet is easy prey for a takedown: the servers are centralized machines that are easily traceable to a company or individual, and most ISPs would probably just take theirs down rather than fight it out with the RIAA. Of course, the user uproar would be like nothing we've ever seen before, because USEnet's main use is not only non-infringing, it's incredibly valuable to a lot of technical types out there.
    • Re:AAArrrgh!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by harmonica ( 29841 )
      But if MS makes it possible for every dingbat melonhead with a modem to get on it, it's going to get much worse.

      But isn't that already the case? Most people use Outlook (or Outlook Express? I never got the difference) and they can access newsgroups already. In some cases this attracts some annoying people, but there are a lot of stubborn, annoying slrn/gnus/yourfavouriteunixnewsreader users as well.

      The other thing is that USEnet has (so far) been flying below the **AA's radar as far as file sharing and
  • by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:21AM (#6599910) Homepage
    Google already does this to a certain degree, although I don't know if their Activity ranking takes into account replies to topics or just number of messages or what.

    If you look at the Google Groups listings you'll see a rough measure of their activity as shown by a green bar. For example, if you look at the rec.arts.comics.* hierarchy you'll see rac.xbooks has no activity. And sure enough, if you go to that group you'll see 2 posts from 2003, 8 from 2002, and a handful of older ones. rac.european has an almost full bar and looking there shows 5-10 posts each month. The others have completely full bars showing lots of posts each day.

    Maybe Google should explain better how the Activity rating works; I didn't see a mention in the faq. Or perhaps show more detail than just the green bar.
  • Netscan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jhoffoss ( 73895 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:22AM (#6599917) Journal
    I think this actually looks like a useful tool. If you actually read the article, there is a link to MS' research site, where you can find Netscan, a proof of concept that just tracks MS' groups. Check it out here [microsoft.com], it's actually fairly interesting. I saw another poster commenting on how this bogs down USENET. Not so, from what I understand.

    What would happen is you load all the posts into a database and perform analysis on that data. From there you draw conclusions on the pretext that, if there were a lot of replies and a lot of repeats last week on newsgroup X, then that should continue this week, so that might be a good one to go for info.

    Once they get the ball rolling on this though, I'd be willing to bet they try to "update" USENET as they become a major player there. Maybe that's just pessimism on my part though.

    • Re:Netscan (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fname ( 199759 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:38AM (#6600028) Journal
      Well, I tried it too. It might be nice to have that daa in a database, but I don't see it being all that useful. The interface is poor, reading messages in their system is laborious and it's generally inefficient.

      Google has also gone ahead and put Usenet in a database, and there solution is pretty handy. Read 10 messages at a time, instantly jump to any thread, search across groups quickly. Essentially, Google has done the obvious, easy stuff that makes it much simpler to use than other web-based (and many client-based) usenet readers. OTOH, Microsoft has gone ahead and implemented non-obvious, complex solutions which don't add much value. MS is famous for V.1 shittiness, and this is no exception.

      • I think Google's contribution is more in the area of availability and searchability (if that is a word ;-)) of postings. If I remember a discussion that was in one of my subscribed groups in the recent X days (X being the time before messages are deleted), I'm usually quicker just full text searching in my news client than going to Google Groups. But I don't have 700 million+ postings, and I guess my news client wouldn't scale well to that number if I did.

        If I find interesting discussions on Google Groups
  • by mwadams ( 520080 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:25AM (#6599942)
    1) Content-related query and aggregate presentation of feeds, rather than simple 'feed'->'group' organization
    2) Intelligent filtering based on my interests (e.g. the kinds of messages I have chosen to read before), not just a simple kill-file / watch mechanism
    3) Better integration of links and web content (the kind of thing you're seeing in Outlook 2003 / good RSS aggregators)
    4) Tools to help with the end-user integration of threaded news content into other apps (e.g. InfoPath-like tools)

    No reason any of these things couldn't be done (beyond the fact that two in particular would require the kind of R&D effort that currently goes in to spam filters - the first half of this sort of equation). Forms of 1, 3 and 4 are already available in Outlook 2003, only it doesn't integrate news feeds into the experience. Hence, I guess, MS stated intention to make news a first class citizen in this world.
  • by treat ( 84622 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:25AM (#6599945)
    Every time someone predicted the death of usenet, the responses were "ha, again the imminent death of usenet is predicted". I think we can safely say that those complaining of the imminent death of usenet were proven right several years ago at the latest.

    It's a shame that there is no decent, centralized place on the net for intelligent discussion. It's one of the biggest losses to humanity in recent years.
  • by perimorph ( 635149 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:25AM (#6599946)
    Well isn't this just wonderful! It's not enough that usenet is plauged with spam, now we can have pop-up ads there, too!

    Someone let me know when the Mozilla team gets them blocked -- God bless them, every one. :)
  • by gstevens ( 209321 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:34AM (#6600000)
    This week, Microsoft invents the threaded news reader......

    Embrace and extend, embrace and extend....
  • Fortunately most of Usenet is such a cespool that really they can only make it better.

    OK, well I'm one of those old fogeys who actually care about Usenet. I've been using it for twenty years and I still think it's a great thing. Admittedly a lot of groups are losing their vibrancy and vitality, and spam is an increasing problem. But Usenet is still a great way for communities of people with common interests to foregather and hang out with one another, bounce ideas around, solve technical problems and exchange ideas, irrespective of geographical distance.

    Usenet, also, because of its primitiveness, is one of the parts of the network revolution which is most resistant to interference. It doesn't need the Internet; it can propagate happily over ad-hoc UUCP links on dialup lines. So even if the corporates come to control the Internet and dictate what we can do with it, even if governments put carnivore boxes on every router, Usenet is still ours and can still route around it.

    It has it's problems. It was conceived in a more innocent age. We do need a successor.

    But please, not Microsoft, the inventors of default top posting. This is one of the things which is making Usenet increasingly difficult to use. Microsoft do not have our interests at heart - only their own. If you want to see a new and better Usenet, look at projects like Usenet2 [usenet2.org].

    • Oh no, a bottom poster. I've been on usenet longer than you, and have been top posting from the beginning. I wish you bottom posters would stop screwing with the most logical, the easiest, and above all the *fastest* way to read through a discussion.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:35AM (#6600007) Homepage Journal
    It pretty much is these days.

    I'm sure there are pockets of something of value, but years ago it pretty much became a total mess..

    It was sad to see it happen.. Most people cant manage themselves. Its why anarchy isn't a viable option in society at this stage of the game.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:35AM (#6600008)
    search for newsgroups containing "e" [microsoft.com]:
    Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a0006'

    Overflow: 'CInt'

    /Static/default.asp, line 213


    Anyone using CInt for something like that is so utterly clueless that we'll have nothing to worry about.
  • by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @10:58AM (#6600145) Homepage Journal
    In August 1996, Microsoft made their internal microsoft.* hierarchy available to the world at large. Around that same time, they switched from INN v1.4 to a proprietary MS NNTP server.

    For the next few weeks, every post made to microsoft.* and select other groups was duplicated by msnews.microsoft.com and spewed back to the world because the proprietary MS server changed the Message-ID [google.com] for every post. Message-IDs are supposed to be unique, so an altered ID was seen as a new post by servers peering with MS and thus were not treated as duplicates and dropped.

    Thousands and thousands of posts were duped and spewed by Microsoft's "innovative" server, both inside microsoft.* and out. The reaction among news admins ranged from mild chuckles at Microsoft's expense to blind rage and the use of cancelbots.

    So yeah, I'm looking forward to this. I could use a good laugh.

    k.
  • by tz ( 130773 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:11AM (#6600216)
    Considering the number of OTDs (outlook transmitted diseases) that would be prevented if Microsoft would just shut off a lot of stuff by default, I can only wonder what new spams and worms will be spread more efficiently.
  • Before you react... (Score:3, Informative)

    by 1nv4d3r ( 642775 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:22AM (#6600266) Homepage
    Take a look at the link off the article. There's a proof-of-concept interface out there. It seems like all they're really doing is collecting and analyzing statistics on the groups and posts. Now, before it's over I'm sure they'll put a front-end on it that uses that data to help prod idiots in the right direction, but I definitely don't see anything horrible about it yet.

    It's particularly fun if you ask for more detail on microsoft.public.windowsxp.basics, where 4th down from the top is a long thread called 'FUCK MICROSOFT! FUCKING IDIOTIC CUNTS!'
  • by tadghin ( 2229 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @11:59AM (#6600440) Homepage
    I've been following it ever since he first did Netscan back at UCLA. In fact, I used Netscan to do the statistics for the Esther Dyson Release 1.0 issue on open source in 1998, projecting the relative size of open source communities by comparing their usenet footprint (as well as other stats, like size of conferences and mailing lists.)

    We had Marc do a presentation on what he's doing at the last O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference, and it was very well received. Marc's at Microsoft Research, and he's a guy slashdotters would all relate to if you actually knew him.
  • Defense of Usenet (Score:3, Informative)

    by shopi ( 614755 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @02:21PM (#6601125)
    Newsgroups are very far from being a wasteland as some people claim. For me, as a cs student, it is almost a daily necessity, because the same questions I could have about languages I'm learning, or complex algorithms, or whatever, are already answered by very knowledgeable people, and I don't even have to disturb anyone. I usually get answers in matter of seconds.

    Most of the tech groups (and more than any other medium) have experts in their field who donate their spare time to answer newbies and have great conversations with each other. I think that is pretty unique.

    The same happens in many non-tech groups. I visit rec.music.classical.recordings frequently, looking for cds recommendations or new music to try. Some of the participants are players in big orchestras, so I know I get great advice. And spam is a non-issue, since the group is moderated.

    I use google for text reading and gravity for binaries.(OE is useless for more than basic browsing)

    OTOH, I fail to see why usenet would be affected at all by anything microsoft could do. All they are doing is data gathering and statistics analysis, in order to determine what are the most relevant and user-friendly newsgroups (for instance, the groups with most replies). And if this can help to bring more people, then it's welcome.

    Usenet is a valuable and unique resource, because what it does isn't really covered by the alternatives. And it's also Internet history. [google.com]

  • by Cordath ( 581672 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @02:32PM (#6601193)
    Many have pointed out why Microsoft turning it's attention to the long-neglected usenet could be a bad thing. However, there are some possible benefits to it too...

    First of all, Usenet apps are currently quite stagnant. There are new apps out there, but Agent is still considered one of the best and there haven't been any major changes to it in years. The interface is practically the same as it was 5 years ago! If Microsoft enters the news-reader market in a serious way then perhaps it might stimulate some creativity and development elsewhere. If nothing else, at least Usenet will get some publicity and new users. This is the big thing.

    Currently, for most people, pay-for Usenet services are the only way to get good feeds at present. With more demand for Usenet from consumers and support from Microsoft perhaps ISP's will take their Usenet servers more seriously. Usenet is a valuable source for thousands of topics, but it is also a great repository for a weath of high-bandwidth materials such as porn, pirated music, videos, etc.. This is stuff that most ISP's don't really care about their users downloading except for the gawd-awful bandwidth costs they incur. A good Usenet server being used by users instead of P2P apps will actually reduce a lot of backbone traffic since the latest copy of Eminenema's album that everybody and their dog is downloading will only have to go over the backbone once to the news-server. From there it's all internal network traffic. Less bandwidth = lest cost, and cheaper internet access, not to mention more speed on less congested lines.

    See. There's a silver lining in every cloud, even if it's a MS-sheitstorm.
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:06PM (#6601340) Homepage Journal
    ... when they pry it from my sticky dead fingers.
  • by KC7GR ( 473279 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @03:07PM (#6601345) Homepage Journal
    ...For E-mail and the Web? Let's have a look.

    They've encouraged pollution of E-mail with HTML [expita.com] and rich text that's readable only on a client that can interpret the code. I mean, c'mon... If you can't get your message across using well-written sentences in plain ASCII text, then no amount of coloration, fancy fonts, or flashing widgets are going to help.

    They've done a lot, both in the past and [sneaker.net.au] more recently, [netmechanic.com] that bends or outright breaks W3C Consortium [w3.org] open standards. Granted, they've gotten a little better, but how many web sites still have interactive features that only work if you use IE? And how many have that stupid "Best viewed with Internet Explorer" blurb at the bottom? How are Flash animations and fancy graphics going to help a vision-impaired or outright blind user, who depends on text-to-speech software or simple high-contrast colors, find what they need on the web?

    Outlook (known among myself and many of my friends as 'Lookout Distress') is still one of the best virus carriers [computergripes.com] on the planet. Only Microsoft would come up with an E-mail client insecure enough that it seems almost to have been designed expressly to aid virus and worm transmission.

    And now UncaBill and Steve "Uncle Fester" Ballmer want to try and "Ballmerize" (my word -- like it?) Usenet? Sheesh... With their track records, they'll probably try (and, hopefully, fail miserably) to borg the whole thing into one big "Web Experience" that will be "Best Viewed with Internet Explorer" all over again.

    As others have so accurately pointed out, Usenet is fine the way it is. Noisy, a bit tough to navigate, and definitely a place where you would want to have your Nomex undies handy to grab at a moment's notice, but perfectly usable to those of us who CARE ENOUGH ABOUT IT to LEARN how to use it right. [ibiblio.org]

    Speaking for myself, I think I can say, with confidence, that Balmy should leave Usenet to those who know it best: The admins around the world who carry it, and the thousands of users who make it a most interesting place indeed.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) * on Sunday August 03, 2003 @04:22PM (#6601676) Homepage Journal
    In all seriousness, when I read "Microsoft to do for Usenet what it did for Email & The Web", my first thought was: "Microsoft is making a newsreader that automatically executes code stored inside of Usenet posts?"
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:50PM (#6602032) Homepage Journal
    There is far better software out there for dealing with Usenet than Microsofts stuff.

    I think Microsofts problem is that they are viewing the world thru the software they make and as such are really quite blind as to what is already available. So when they come up with some improvement, they really don't know it was done a decade ago or better and actually think they invented something new.

    What is Usenet good for?

    establishing Prior art for one....

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