If you've been on the internet since the early days, you might already be quite familiar with Usenet. Gen Y might have missed out on all they had to offer. These days it performs a similar service to BitTorrent, but it is much less popular.
What is Usenet?
Usenet is an antique in internet years. It has been around since the 1970s and it used to function as a bulletin board. At first, it used decentralised servers so that people could communicate online through text. The World Wide Web came along and essentially took over its original use. Usenet became a way to transfer binary files and this eventually turned into a system that serves a similar purpose to BitTorrent.
It allows users to transfer files by storing them on lots of servers. This makes DMCA takedown notices ineffective, because each file is generally available on multiple servers. Because of this, the system has been able to soldier on through the ups and downs of of companies involved in filesharing. It has outlasted Napster, Kazaa and now, maybe even KickAss Torrents.
Like everything in the old days of the internet, it was originally quite difficult to find what you wanted through Usenet. You had to manually search through alt.binaries subgroups until you got to what you were looking for. Then Newzbin came along and developed the NZB format, which made the files much easier to find.
What's Better: Usenet or BitTorrent
Like everything, they each have their positives and negatives. Because of this, individual users will have different preferences when it comes to how they transfer files.
One of the great aspects of Usenet is that it is fast. All of the files are stored on servers, which allows you to download them at greater speeds than torrent files. It is also considered much more secure. This is because most will use SSL to connect to the Usenet servers. Using SSL means that the only person who can see what you are downloading is the server provider. Lots of providers don't keep logs, which makes it even harder to find who has illegally downloaded content.
Unfortunately, the good aspects of Usenet need to contend with its disadvantages. The main one is that it is not free. The thought of having to pay $100 or more each year will definitely turn off most pirates. They offer unlimited monthly transfer packages that can be very expensive, while the cheaper ones will have a limit to how much data you can use. They also limit the time that they will retain data. This used to be a big issue when storage was expensive and the time period was small. Now it's somewhere around five years, so you shouldn't be too worried.
When you compare this to BitTorrent, it is easy to see why Usenet lurks in the shadows. There aren't many users who are willing to pay to pirate (it almost sounds like an oxymoron–like asking someone nicely to let you rob their house), so they tend to stick with BitTorrent because it's free. Not having to deal with a transfer limit is also a big plus of BitTorrent. The poor speeds and lack of security can be a deterrent to some users, but as you can see by the popularity of each service, this doesn't seem to be a strong factor in the decision making process for most people.
Setting Up Usenet
Setting up Usenet can be a little bit complex, so we will just go over the important parts for now to help you familiarise yourself with it. There are many detailed guides available online.
The first step is to download a Usenet client. This is the equivalent to the BitTorrent client and it is what enables you to download RAR files. The next thing that you will need is a Usenet account. There are many different providers out there, so do some research and find the one that is right for you. Finally, you will need to visit an NZB indexing site to find the files you want. These are the equivalent to Kick Ass Torrents or The Pirate Bay.
Once you have chosen each part that you want to use and have it all up and running, you will need to go to the NZB indexing site and search for what you want to download. Copy the URL and paste it into the client. The file will begin downloading by itself.
Usenet & VPNs
If you want to be extra secure with your downloading, it is best to combine Usenet with a VPN. To be honest, most internet use should be going through one these days, especially when you consider the abilities of the NSA and criminal hacking groups. This is even more true if you are doing something that's legally questionable.
What's the Best VPN for Usenet?
Whether you are a new or oldschool Usenet fan, you might think it's time to start using a VPN to give you that extra bit of privacy and security. Here are our top five:
#1 & Editors Choice: ExpressVPN
This is another great choice that is completely fine with filesharing. They feature strong AES-256 encryption, don't take logs and accept Bitcoin. It may have a few less features than some rivals, but whether this will be a problem for you depends on how you use it. It has good speeds, but they might not be quite up there with the competitors.
Speed, security and a tolerance to filesharing, what's not to like? TorGuard offer a great service that puts a lot of importance on the privacy of their users. They don't take any logs and offer a high level of encryption. They have good customer service and are also quite fairly priced for the service that they offer.
Buffered are another company that are at the higher end as far as costs go, but they certainly make up for it with great features. While they are still a young company, they offer fast connections and a functional design. They offer great customer service and also operate servers in 15 countries.
#5: Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access has always been a trusty VPN provider. They have a lot of servers in a range of countries, which will ensure that you get great speeds. They also have a no logs policy and accept Bitcoin. With strong encryption and great customer service, you should definitely consider their service for Usenet.