Google Groups ditches links to Usenet, the OG social network

The online communities that arguably fuelled the search giant’s dominance have become too nasty to bother with

Google Groups has announced it will end support for Usenet – a significant change that undoes one of the early decisions that propelled the search and ads giant to dominance.

Usenet predated the world wide web by more than a decade and comprised a federated set of newsgroups – threaded conversations that weren't vastly different to the format still used by communities like the Linux Kernel Mailing List. Most newsgroups used the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) so its content could be shared across the constellation of servers accessed by end users. Those servers were needed because in the early days of the public internet it was not always easy to retrieve info from distant servers without waiting an eternity. And with early internet accounts usually limited by connection time rather than download capacity, federated content made a lot of sense.

Myriad newsgroups proliferated, and in 1995 a biz called Deja archived as many of them as it could find and made them searchable – at about the same time early search engines like AltaVista and Yahoo! did likewise for the web.

Deja eventually floundered, and in 2001 then three-year-old Google acquired its Usenet archive. The Register covered the news and noted the deal meant "Google is to extend its search capabilities to Usenet. You can trawl through six months' Usenet messages through the beta at"

As more and more people came online, Usenet's popularity had grown. Delivering web search and Usenet search gave Google an edge over its rivals in the fledgling search arena.

The rest is history.

And as of February 22, 2024, some of Google's ties to Usenet will be history too.

A support document posted in the last few days announced the following:

Starting on February 22, 2024, you can no longer use Google Groups (at to post content to Usenet groups, subscribe to Usenet groups, or view new Usenet content. You can continue to view and search for historical Usenet content posted before February 22, 2024, on Google Groups.

The announcement also brings news that Google's NNTP server and associated peering "will no longer be available, meaning Google will not support serving new Usenet content or exchanging content with other NNTP servers."

That matters because Google created its own Usenet-like service – Google Groups – and allowed cross-posting. Google Groups could also be used to view Usenet content.

Google's explanation for the change is that "legitimate activity in text-based Usenet groups has declined significantly because users have moved to more modern technologies and formats such as social media and web-based forums."

The search and ads giant added "Much of the content being disseminated via Usenet today is binary (non-text) file sharing, which Google Groups does not support, as well as spam."

Google's advice to those who want to stick with Usenet is to find a new client and point it at the NNTP server of your choice.

Like all online communities, Usenet mixed rocks and diamonds. A 1994 WiReD article, "The War Between alt.tasteless and rec.pets.cats", offers amusing insights into the service circa 1994 by revealing how a group of provocateurs who delighted in extremely tasteless content invaded another Usenet community dedicated to appreciation of domestic cats.

The story is paywalled, but can be summarized by imagining 4Chan members deciding it would be fun to bring their vile brand of humor to a YouTube channel dedicated to user-contributed cat videos. That entirely plausible scenario is an eloquent demonstration of Usenet's importance in setting the tone for the modern internet.

Which Google has decided doesn't need Usenet anymore. ®

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