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Re: mailing list vs "the futur"

On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 01:16:45PM +0100, Mark Rousell wrote:
NNTP was inefficient in this regard compared to what other protocol or
protocols, exactly?

FTP and later HTTP, which handled binaries efficiently. In fact, one was even named in a way to suggest it was a good way to transfer files. :)

May I ask, did you use Usenet in this timeframe?

Yes, academic, commercial ISP, and paid subscription servers. I also had some insight into what it took to keep the servers running, not just the user-side view... I followed a number of text groups, until the signal to noise ratio got low enough to make it not worth the effort.

I disagree. This attitude (that anonymity was the primary driver) is redolent
of the confused or skewed training courses I referred to above. Whilst I can
accept that some people may have perceived Usenet to be anonymous, they were of
course wrong both then and now (and this was well known to technical users back
at that time).

You seem to have an overly idealistic view of the level of logging on most news servers 20 years ago. Also, for the record, I don't think I ever had a "training course" on usenet.

As far as being wrong...if LE siezed an anonymous FTP server distributing illegal content and either reviewed its logs or monitored its link they could get a list of each IP that accessed content. There is no central point from which you can see who accessed usenet content. You might be able to get that by investigating every usenet server on the internet, but it's enough of a harder problem that access was effectively anonymous up until large providers started actively trying to address certain kinds of activity (and then, only for those providers). You may be referring to whether the posting is anonymous, which is a quite different question. It's certainly much easier to track a post to a single origin, though jurisdictional boundaries could make it hard to actually do anything with that information. The bottom line is that for a period of time, usenet was the easiest way to obtain certain illegal content. There were certainly overblown reports that usenet was nothing but illegal content, and it's certainly possible to transfer illegal content via other protocols, but it's naive and/or disingenous to pretend that usenet didn't have a problem.

I should add that I described Usenet as an "efficient" distribution medium
above and it most certainly was efficient in this respect. Even though, as you
say, NNTP needs to encode binaries, Usenet was still efficient because of its
one-to-many capability and its asynchronous capability. It just worked.

The one to many capability simply didn't outweigh the enormous volume of one-to-none-via-many. Even back in the day there were a lot of really passionate advocates of the theoretical greatness of the service, with no clue of how much it was costing to provide.

And let me re-iterate that none of this history, whilst interesting,
particularly relates to NNTP's continued suitability for discussion groups such
as this one.

Well, there's no particularly relevant discussion of how suitable it is for email lists like this one. :) If 25 years of advocacy haven't managed to get debian to understand how wonderful it would be to switch from SMTP lists to NNTP groups, it's really unlikely to happen going forward. Instead, it's likely that the theoretical advantages don't nearly outweigh the practical disadvantages.

Mike Stone

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