Google Groups is dropping Usenet support, and that is a good thing

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 15, 2023

Google announced this week that it plans to cut the ties to the Usenet in Google Groups. Starting February 22, 2024, Google Groups users can no longer post content to Usenet groups, subscribe to Usenet groups or view Usenet content published after February 22.

Native Google Groups content and communities continue to be available, as the change does not impact them. Google notes further that it will disband its Usenet infrastructure. These servers can not be used anymore to interact with the Usenet according to the announcement.

Google Groups Usenet Shutdown

Google explains that activity in text-based Usenet groups has declined over the years. Large parts of the userbase have moved on to "more modern technologies and formats". The majority of content that is available on the Usenet is either binary files or spam, according to Google.

The Spam problem

While Google mentions that spam is a problem, it fails to point out that most of the spam posted to text-based Usenet groups originates from Google Groups. In fact, many Usenet regulars started to use filters to weed out anything that comes from Google Groups as a method to eliminate spam in their subscribed groups.

The tie cutting is therefore a welcome change for many Usenet users who are subscribed to text-based groups on the Usenet. Come February 2024, spam will drop to levels that are significantly lower than current levels.

What users can do about it

The shutting down of the news server is the main problem for users. They need to find another service that offers newsgroup access. One free option to access text-based groups is provided by Eternal September.

Besides having to find a new provider, users need to find a new client as well. Several free clients are available, including Mozilla Thunderbird, which supports newsgroups. You can check out Wikipedia's list of Usenet readers here.

Content posted before February 22, 2024 continues to be available on Google Groups, according to Google.

Closing Words

Google ending support for Usenet in Google Groups and disbanding its infrastructure is certainly disruptive for users who used the service to interact with the Usenet. On the other hand, it resolves a long-standing spam problem that Google did nothing about.

Now You: do you use the Usenet?

Google Groups is dropping Usenet support, and that is a good thing
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Google Groups is dropping Usenet support, and that is a good thing
Starting February 22, 2024, Google Groups users can no longer post content to Usenet groups, subscribe to Usenet groups or view Usenet content published after February 22.
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  1. Tony Harvey said on December 17, 2023 at 11:19 pm

    Not sure it’s fair to include Facebook here as a government poodle. WhatsApp is in their stable, and is end-to-end encrypted (same goes for Signal and Telegram). I’ve never read of data in WA being disclosed to government. Indeed, noises from our British government that WA could provide a means of letting government ‘see’ messages (in perceived use of the app to transmit terrorist messages or child porn) met with WA apparently threatening to withdraw from the UK rather than comply. A government minister assured users no threat to privacy was planned. Will Cathcart, boss of WA, tweeted (6 Sept 23, see Guardian of that day): “…scanning everyone’s messages would destroy privacy…. @WhatsApp will never break our encryption and remains vigilant against threats to do so.” They’ve been partnered with FB since early 2014.

  2. John C. said on December 15, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    For those who don’t remember or who weren’t around when it was running, there used to be a very excellent, easy-to-use Usenet archive website named “Dejanews”. Google bought them out and then almost immediately changed their interface so that it was very difficult to research anything posted in the past. You can check out Google Groups right now if you want to see just how bad and interface can be. As far as I’m concerned, it would be better if they made the change effective immediately because (as is mentioned in the article above) most of the spam is coming from Google Groups.

    My guess is that the U.S. government doesn’t appreciate the lack of censorship available when discussing a topic on actual Usenet and got their lapdogs, Google, to attempt to crush Usenet. Google Groups moderates (AKA “censors”) discussion by providing a means to complain about what somebody else is talking about. Facebook does the same thing with even more vigor, and they’re also in bed with the government as most people are aware.

    In other words, if the U.S. government can’t legally prohibit free speech because of the Constitution, they get big business to do it for them.

    1. 5the people said on December 16, 2023 at 12:55 pm

      Yes, they could be censoring content on behalf of the government for free, or more likely they could be a for profit corporation that does not want to scare advertisers away.

    2. 4the people said on December 15, 2023 at 10:23 pm

      Bingo! Good insight.

      Hopefully more of these hidden activities will be made public.

  3. DirCmpUser said on December 15, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    This just looks like more centralisation and throttling by the ‘don’t be evil’ crowd of the information flow, particulary that on a distributed basis.

    The cherry on this particular spiral dog memento is that presumably also the DejaNews archive of usenet posts will be lost for ever. A small palliative however: is still down – beginning to look permanently so?

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