Social Media Before Social Media:
Usenet and Its Benefits for Business

The History of Usenet

In 1979, Duke University students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis wanted to create a way for college students to share information and ideas from their computers with other college students with computers. To fill this need, they created a communication/discussion platform called Usenet (short for The Users Network) that was publicly released in 1980. The platform grew in popularity over the next decade and a half as more people had access to computers, but it was overshadowed by the creation of the world wide web in the mid-1990s.

Usenet Today vs. the Early Days

The whole premise of Usenet was to share valuable information. Information was shared in discussion spaces called newsgroups, which are similar to discussion forums today. In the ‘80s, newsgroups were mainly related to academics. Topics of discussion included technology, science, and even news; by the 1990s topics of discussion expanded into pop culture. Today, there are well over 100,000 newsgroups with topics for every conceivable idea. Users can even create their own newsgroups for a particular topic.

Even before the internet, people were creating and sharing content with others on Usenet. Back then, content on Usenet was limited to text posts or articles, but today you can share articles, as well as images, videos, and audio files. Usenet even comes with its own version of a search engine called a newsreader. Users can type in the kind of content they are in search of into the newsreader, and then they will be directed to any newsgroup pertaining to that topic.

Using Usenet for Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, then you can also use Usenet as a way to promote your business or services. By creating a newsgroup specific to your business, users in search of topics that relate to your business can come across your newsgroup. It is important to understand that you may not be able to conduct business directly through Usenet, but instead use the platform as a way to drive potential customers, and even employees, towards your website.

How to Access Usenet
It is also important to understand that Usenet is not a social media platform in the sense of today’s social platforms. Yes, you can access Usenet through the internet, but it can also be accessed offline through a Usenet service provider. Through the service provider, you will be able to access Usenet’s hundreds of thousands of newsgroups, as well as create your own. Service providers offer a monthly subscription with either a limited or unlimited number of secure downloads of content.

The Benefits of Usenet
Usenet differs from other social media platforms due to the fact that it is not as restricted as other platforms can be. This fact alone attracts many different people, therefore exposing your business to a whole other demographic of potential customers. Users can also take comfort in knowing that Usenet offers SSL (secure socket layer) encryption, meaning that all downloads are private and secure.

Usenet can also be beneficial for business owners looking to hire employees. Job postings along with their descriptions can be posted in the business’s newsgroups to attract potential candidates. Owners can also invite current employees to post their experiences in the newsgroup in hopes of attracting future employees.


Social media has become a big part of everyday life— from interacting with friends and family to conducting business. Many entrepreneurs today use social media for their business in some way. Some may find that certain sites aren’t driving the traffic that they were hoping for, or maybe even that they’ve reached every person in their target market. This is why Usenet can be a useful resource for business owners looking to expand their reach. In conjunction with social media, it’s a unique platform to utilize to attract new customers/clients and potential employees.