uunet ends newsfeed/newsreader in US

Michael Sinatra michael at rancid.berkeley.edu
Fri Mar 30 17:59:35 CDT 2012

On 03/30/12 13:41, Henry Yen wrote:
> uunet/vzb "will terminate its United States Newsreader and Newsfeed
> services on March 31, 2012, with no plans to offer a replacement, and
> any content/data remaining after that date will be unrecoverably deleted".
> does anyone on NANOG have any thoughtful comments on this?

Only a retrospective: I was hired by the central networking group at UC 
Berkeley in the late 90s to run the USENET service for campus.  At the 
time, the USENET service was still critically important for the teaching 
mission of the campus, as many courses (especially in EECS) had very 
active class newsgroups.  As you can see from examples such as CS 61a (
https://groups.google.com/group/ucb.class.cs61a/about?pli=1), use of 
these groups peaked while I was operating the service.  (The numbers are 
probably skewed a bit, as I don't know how much of the archives google 
was able to get from before the early 90s.  But still, by sheer volume, 
the early 2000s was probably the peak of the ucb.class hierarchy.)

I was following big footsteps: Chris van den Berg preceded me, and he 
made UCB the #3 USENET transit peer in the world.  Before that, Rob 
Robertson ran the service and he was the one who created the first 
overview database for INN and contributed the code for that.

I enjoyed running the service: It was heavily used and I enjoyed making 
contacts and setting up peers.  Then layers 8 and 9 settled in. 
Commodity bandwidth became very expensive, and demand for bandwidth 
simultaneously exploded due to file sharing, legal or otherwise.  My job 
became less of a matter of running a world-class service and more of a 
matter of "how do we throttle this thing, or just get rid of/outsource 
it?"--a question management would often ask.  I spent a lot of time 
adjusting rate-limits for peers and at one point we ended up putting 
USENET into the scavenger class behind a packetshaper.  An indignity, to 
be certain.

By the time of the economic collapse, usage had declined sufficiently 
that USENET was easy for management to put on the chopping block.  This, 
even though bandwidth had become much cheaper.  My job (thanks to my 
USENET tasks and systems background) had evolved into more of a general 
network engineering position, and I had a surplus of interesting work to 
do, so it wasn't a major loss for me.  Still, I am glad that USENET (and 
NNTP in particular) is going strong elsewhere.  I learned a lot from 
running the service, and to this day, I am still one of the more 
"systemy" network engineers out there.  I enjoy running DNS, NTP, and 
other system-based network services an much as I like configuring 
routers.  I think running USENET a while back had a lot to do with that.


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