While not as many people know about USENET as do Bittorrent and other options, 2015 was a big year for USENET fans.
Here are the biggest stories we ran this year about USENET and associated issues. Looking back, one thing is still apparent: the sometimes lacking press that USENET gets is one of the things that keeps it cool, and sometimes being under the radar is a very good thing.
Golden Frog, the company behind VyprVPN and that offers its products along with Giganews USENET access, found that some mobile carriers were blocking encryption.
One of their engineers tried to use secure email and couldn’t. The company tracked down the cause of the problem and went so far as to publish an editorial and file a report with the FCC over the matter.
The excuse given was security, as it almost always is, but Golden Frog holds that the issue is about ISPs protecting their profits, not network management.
Giganews managed to win against Perfect 10 in court. Perfect 10 is a well-known copyright troll. Perfect 10 sued Giganews over copyright infringement.
Giganews ended up giving the porn company a good thrashing, legally, anyway. In the end, the judge presiding over the case found that the DMCA takedown requests that Perfect 10 sent to Giganews were invalid. The judge went further, saying that the requests were deliberately worded incorrectly to prevent Giganews from complying and, thus, setting the USENET provider up for a trolling copyright lawsuit.
Giganews did a bit more than win a court case in this instance. As we pointed out in our coverage, copyright trolls oftentimes rely on the person or company they’re suing not wanting to go to court and, thus, the lawsuit really amounts to legally-sanctioned extortion, with the defendant having to pay a settlement to make the case go away.
Perfect 10, after it was all said and done, ended up owing Giganews $5.6 million for the attorney’s fees and other costs of going to court. As of now, they haven’t paid a dime on that.
In this case, Giganews took on and thoroughly beat up a bully, and kudos to them for that. We’re hoping that Giganews getting their $5.6 million out of Perfect 10 is in our 2016 list of top USENET stories.
Easynews added a VPN service this year. The service is free for people who have the Big Gig account. Other users can check it out and get it for a very competitive price.
Why was this big? One of the most significant selling points of USENET is the availability of SSL encryption to protect your downloads. That protection, of course, only extends to USENET usage. The VPN expands it out so it covers most everything.
Easynews isn’t the only provider to offer VPN along with its USENET service, but the way that more and more USENET providers are doing so is big news for privacy in general.
In accordance with the USA Freedom Act, the NSA shut down its massive bulk data collection of phone records in November of this year. When the Act was passed, the NSA was given six months to shut down the program.
Unfortunately, the phone companies still retain the data and the NSA can get it if it issues a request. On the good side of things, however, annual reporting requirements and the requirement that the NSA actually ask for specific data may add transparency to how the shadowy organization operates within the US.
The law was praised as a step forward in some quarters, but was panned by some privacy advocates as being toothless and not going far enough to reign in the massive domestic spying that’s been going on for well over a decade now.
USENET’s always been a place where people are happy to offer a few choice words to one another. This year, it offered a few to the Oxford English Dictionary, and the dictionary accepted.
Some of the words that originated on USENET and made their way into the dictionary include FAQ, ROFL and Cosplay.
While USENET might not have the user base it once did, it continues to make an impression not only in the world of digital services, but in language itself.
USENET will likely continue to make news in 2016, and we’ll keep covering it. In addition to our news coverage, be sure to check for special offers and other information that we make available.
Have a great holiday season and New Year!