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posted by janrinok on Monday March 12 2018, @03:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the full-of-300bps-goodness dept.

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.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:15AM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:15AM (#651591)

    5. It's impossible to monetize a distributed model like Usenet.

    In short, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

    Anarcho-capitalist moron makes moronic comment.

    I'm shocked! Shocked, I say!

    Strange how Usenet managed to survive for decades [wikipedia.org] without an issue, until those whose only concern is monetization (ISPs and the centralized [google.com] spying [facebook.com] apparatus) put forth concerted efforts to make it less available, and as a result, less useful -- driving folks to less worthwhile (but eminently monetizable) platforms.

    I'd call you an idiot, but I already called you an 'anarcho-capitalist' and I don't want to repeat myself.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @01:30AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @01:30AM (#651615)

    Usenet prospered when it was basically by the same people it was for.

    When the hordes showed up, that didn't work out; the hordes didn't care to "pay their fair share".

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @01:37AM (5 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @01:37AM (#651619)

      When the hordes showed up, that didn't work out; the ISPs' asymmetric bandwidth offerings and abusive TOS made it mostly impossible for them to "pay their fair share".

      There. FTFY.

      If one in 100, or even one in 200 (possibly an even lower ratio) had been able to set up their own usenet servers, there would have been no issue

      But they weren't given the chance to do so, as ISPs wanted to make sure they could invest the minimum into infrastructure and extract the maximum in rents.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @02:31AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @02:31AM (#651637)

        The ISP doesn't owe you anything.

        If you don't agree with how your ISP got its infrastructure, then complain about the local government, not the ISP—it was your local government who granted the monopoly.

        • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday March 13 2018, @03:51AM

          The ISP doesn't owe you anything.

          If you don't agree with how your ISP got its infrastructure, then complain about the local government, not the ISP—it was your local government who granted the monopoly.

          Actually, an ISP (at least one that I'm doing business with) owes me the services agreed upon in the contract/agreement between me and the ISP. This assumes that I hold up my end of the contract (by paying the bill).

          In my particular case, there are *at least* four ISPs that can provide me with internet connectivity. The one that I use doesn't block ports or have abusive TOS.

          The issues with local government corruption are long-standing and well known. In fact, if you search my posting history, I've addressed that specific issue more times than I can count.

          What's more, such corruption doesn't make what I said here [soylentnews.org] untrue:

          3. Since most residential net connections have a severe bias to *download* and ISPs restrict their customers from running "servers", it was too difficult to set up more usenet servers as the internet user base expanded;
          4. ISPs used to run Usenet servers and provide access as part of their network access plans. They then started charging for access and when folks wouldn't pay, they stopped providing it at all;

          So, I'm not exactly sure what you're going on about.

          All the same, if it makes you feel better to go on an uninformed rant, knock yourself out.

          P.S: If the subject line was supposed to get a rise out of me, I'm sorry that didn't work out for you. Don't stop trying though. I have faith in you!

          --
          No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by janrinok on Tuesday March 13 2018, @07:55AM (2 children)

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 13 2018, @07:55AM (#651720) Journal

          If you don't agree with how your ISP got its infrastructure...it was your local government who granted the monopoly.

          While I am sure that your problems are very real - they are, to a great extent, limited to North America and, perhaps, Australia. Huge areas of the world can choose from several ISPs (I can have accounts with at least 6 ISPs and probably more if I want to go searching for something special), which keeps the prices relatively in check and maintains market competition. As for getting on to Usenet, it couldn't for me be any easier. For the price of a cup of coffee I can buy a month's access, unfiltered, unregulated and accessible from any computer, using HTTPS and SSL links at least to the gateway.

          But perhaps the 'computer' is the problem - I need to be able to run a short script to set up the IP, ports, username and password into my access program, although I could do it manually if I wished. Not being a 'smart phone' user I'm not sure how easy that would be for many people to do. And then smart phone users seem to prefer bling and pretty colours - neither of which are of any importance to me when I am having a conversation or discussion.

          You know, we haven't done too badly here at SN, We have a simple - even retro! - UI. You can start any topic that you wish to discuss in your journal. We protect as much as we can your identity - although members of our community can sometimes compromise their own identities by not thinking. And if you want to put something encrypted on your journal - well, go ahead.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:02PM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:02PM (#651783)

            Hey, can SN be bridged to Usenet?

            • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Tuesday March 13 2018, @03:01PM

              by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 13 2018, @03:01PM (#651833) Journal

              I don't know - we will have to wait until someone with more technical knowledge lets us know, and then decide if it is in our interests to do so.