canopic jug writes:
Professor Steve Bellovin at the computer science department at Columbia University in New York City writes in his blog about early design decisions for Usenet. In particular he addresses authentication and the factors taken into consideration given the technology available at the time. After considering the infeasiblity of many options at the time, they ultimately threw up their hands.
That left us with no good choices. The infrastructure for a cryptographic solution was lacking. The uux command rendered illusory any attempts at security via the Usenet programs themselves. We chose to do nothing. That is, we did not implement fake security that would give people the illusion of protection but not the reality.
For those unfamiliar with it, Usenet is a text-based, worldwide, decentralized, distributed discussion system. Basically it can be likened to a bulletin board system of sorts. Servers operate peer to peer while users connect to their preferred server using a regular client-server model. It was a key source of work-related discussion, as well as entertainment and regular news. Being uncensorable, it was a key source of news during several major political crises around the world during the 1980s and early 1990s. Being uncensorable, it has gained the ire of both large businesses and powerful politicians. It used to be an integral part of any ISP's offerings even 15 years ago. Lack of authentication has been both a strength and a weakness. Professor Bellovin sheds some light on how it came to be like that.
Despite weaknesses, Usenet gave rise to among many other things the now defunct Clarinet news, which is regarded to be the first exclusively online business.
While the chat/messaging usage of usenet is a fraction of its former glory, there is still one thing that it is used for...
Binary files. Usenet has become an alternative to bittorrent. It is not as popular as bittorrent, but it works well.
NZBs work well with binary files on usenet, and are very easy to use if you can set up a server (or VM) with SABNZBD [sabnzbd.org].
The only problem is that usenet is no longer a part of many ISPs. They used to be part of many, even AOL, but started being dropped during the late 90's and early 00's. You can find some usenet providers for free for the last 10 days of posting, or possibly a trial for longer. Most offer the last 3 years of posting history of binary files, but only if you are willing to pay.
There are a few websites on the internet dedicated to searching for nzbs or indexing files and creating nzbs... many are free, but they are targeted by the mpaa/riaa with occassional takedown notices.