In an otherwise mostly uninteresting newsgroup thread, someone noted that roughly 29% of recent posters were using Google Groups.
I'm not surprised. In ancient days, I used Tin and Trn and it would have taken threats of violence to move me to anything else. A Guified newsreader/poster? Don't make me laugh! But times have changed. I both read and post with Google Groups now. I did toy with Hogwasher, but soon came back to Google.
Why? Well, for one thing, the world of the Internet has changed. Back in the day, news groups were *the* major source for information. If you needed to know how to furble a wombus with Nuggagator 2.0, you didn't ask Google - you searched the newsgroups. If you came up dry, well, you posted. Basically, the Internet didn't offer much else. Oh yeah, a few tech sites were starting to pop up (heck, I started this site in the early 90's) but there were not many and you simply could not get the instant answers that are now pretty common with a Google search. So Usenet News was where we hung out - it was our lifeblood.
As that changed, News became a secondary source.. a distant secondary now. I do search in news groups, but only after I have not found what I want with an ordinary Google search. As I'm already using a browser, why would I switch away to search News? Of course I wouldn't. That's why I'm not surprised that 29% were using Google Groups. I bet an even higher percentage of readers are using Google.
But there's more to think about here. Another reason I use Google is that it has tremendous depth: Google has at least attempted to index and store every single news post ever made in any group, no matter how obscure. That's far more than any news server ever stored in the past, so why would I (or anyone else) search at any server that provided less depth? No, we want it all, and Google gives it to us.
That's why AOL stopped serving news and sent their users to Google Groups. Why should they do a crappy job providing a service that Google excels at? So any AOL users interested in newsgroups now use Google Groups, but they aren't the only ones. Many ISP's today don't offer news access for the same reason: they can't possibly do it as well as Google does, so why bother?
So what does the crystal ball say? Unless you are someone like Microsoft who wants to compete with Google, there's no reason to run a news server. Gone are the days when people would run their own NNTP server. Oh, I suppose some uber-geeks still do, probably out of foolish pride more than any real benefit. Google Groups outperforms anything most of us can do by an order of magnitude and then some.
Consider that Google makes money with this: I'm quite sure that revenues from Google Groups far exceed the cost necessary to provide and maintain it. On the other hand, for most of the other tens of thousands of NNTP servers, the cost and expense aren't offset by anything.. So, over time, I imagine that what is now still fairly widely distributed service will dwindle down to exist in only a very few places - maybe eventually only one. I really think that's inevitable, don't you?
(See Posting to Usenet Groups if you don't understand how NNTP works now)
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-07-12 Anthony Lawrence