What is Usenet & Why Does it Matter?
Usenet predates what we now know as the internet. It started as a project at Duke University and has since grown to be a widely used medium for discussions of all types. Usenet is a large network of servers that host individual newsgroups. A newsgroup is a hierarchical entity that is dedicated to a topic. There are many newsgroups, with a group for just about any topic you can think of. Today's popular web forums, chat rooms, instant messaging, and more can all trace thier roots back to the original social network, usenet.
Usenet isn't governed by any authority. Usenet is largely an entity that is driven by its users, so whatever the users put into usenet is what will come out. It's not a peer-to-peer network, but something entirely different and with a different purpose. Usenet is simply the term used to describe the network of newsgroup servers that peer with each other to spread information.
Usenet has continued to grow in use over the years, despite all of the new methods for computer users to keep in touch with each other. Usenet is, in many ways, a symbol of the ideals of the internet itself. It's a decentralized network where people have the freedom to discuss what they want... and that's why it's as important now as ever before.
How Do I Access Usenet?
You will need access to a usenet server (also known as a news server or a newsgroup server) to be able to access usenet and the newsgroups therein. Most ISP's offer some form of usenet access packaged with thier normal service. The most notable ISP to not provide usenet access is AOL. ISP usenet access is notably deficient compared to the service provided by a premium usenet provider. Find out why NewsgroupDirect is better than your ISP.