Ironically enough, the Bitorrent vs. Usenet debate pits one of the oldest technologies in use on the Internet against one of the very newest. Both of these technologies allow for the rapid sharing of large files and are used primarily as a replacement for the less technologically-advanced and less-secure peer-to-peer file sharing programs that became popular in the 1990’s. They both have advantages and disadvantages. For most users, getting into bitorrent will be easier than getting into Usenet. If the playing field level in this regard, Usenet would likely be a lot more popular.
Bitorrent uses a sharing method that is dependent upon seeds, peers and partial file downloads. Essentially, a seed is a sharing computer that has the entire file being downloaded, a peer has parts of the file and the computer downloading gets pieces of the file from various sources, puts them all together at the end and produces the desired file as the end result. Usenet allows for the direct download of a file from a single server. The speed is usually very fast, depending on one’s server and connection and, unlike Bitorrent, it doesn’t require that the user wait for enough connections to be made for a fast download.
Bitorrent does not allow any data being downloaded to be encrypted en route. Usenet allows secure connections. SSL technology encrypts data in transit and it is not readable until the destination computer unlocks the encryption using the appropriate key. This measure of security goes a long way toward protecting privacy.
Usenet is a bit more difficult to use than bitorrent. Bitorrent clients are widely available and the download process only takes one piece of software. However, Usenet’s sometimes more complicated usage requirements mean better results for the end user. For example, because the newsgroups on which files are hosted tend to have responses posted by users, a bogus file can be quickly identified as such and avoided by users. On bitorrent, one is usually on their own and may spend hours downloading nothing but a virus.
Bitorrent has become very popular over recent years but Usenet is offering some renewed competition. Generally, very experienced file sharers prefer the latter due to the enhanced security and greater control they have over their downloads. The faster speeds, of course, play into this preference as well as no one likes to wait the sometimes long periods of time it takes to download via bitorrent.