Difference Between Usenet and Instant Messaging (IM)

Usenet and Instant Messaging (IM) are two separate entities that are available to people to contact each other and to share information with each other. Of late there has been a lot of talk about Usenet. Just how does this Usenet compare with Instant Messaging, popularly known as IM? Many people are confused about the features and functions of Usenet and think of it as another type of instant messaging which however is not correct. Though these two have similarities, there are glaring differences between Usenet and IM, they are two separate entities.

Much before internet was even though about, a project was conceived at the University of North Carolina in 1979 to develop a computer network communication system. It employed UUCP as a transport protocol and allowed common people to access internet much before WWW came into existence. The system was established in 1980 and allowed users to send mails and files. The makers of the program called it Usenet, and today, after 30 years of its inception, the number of people using Usenet for sending and sharing articles has gradually increased manifold. It is a worldwide discussion system where users read and post messages (called articles on Usenet), much like web forums of today. The system can be regarded as a precursor of the modern email and web forums and is a cross between the two.

Usenet today has become a widely used medium for discussion of all types. It can be thought of as a large network of servers hosting individual newsgroups. The articles (or messages) that are posted by users are classified in various categories termed as newsgroups. Majority of articles posted by users are responses of a preexisting article. All these responses to a non reply topic are called a thread.

Both the formatting and transmission of articles on Usenet is very similar to modern day instant messaging. The biggest difference between Usenet and IM is that while all articles posted on Usenet can be seen and read by anyone using the system, instant messages are meant for a particular recipient and only he or she gets and sees them. Whereas Usenet requires no mail client, it is necessary to register for a mail client to be able to use instant messaging.

Because of rise of modern and fast means of communication such as IM and email, Usenet has lost much of its charm though the number of users of Usenet has steadily grown across the globe.

In brief:

• Usenet is a precursor of the modern day internet and was conceived and established in 1980

• Those who use Usenet can read and post articles on it in much the same way as web based forums of today.

• Usenet is similar to instant messaging but IM is unique as it requires a mail client and the messages are seen and read only by the person for who they are intended in contrast to Usenet where all users can see all the articles posted on the system.