Torrents vs Usenet: A Detailed Comparison

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Every day, millions of files are shared across platforms like Torrents and Usenet. Perhaps you’ve only briefly heard the names of these services, but don’t know much more. What’s the difference between the two? Is one better than the other? (Torrents vs Usenet)

Let’s begin by explaining how these two services work. Having a clear understanding of the pros and cons of using a service like Usenet and Torrents is important because you may not have the full scope of whether something is copyrighted and its legal ramifications. Each service has risks so the below article will help you approach downloading with each service safely.

Torrents vs Usenet: A Detailed Comparison

Torrents vs Usenet
Torrents vs Usenet

What is Usenet?

The rise and evolution of the internet meant a more hyper-connected world where users could exchange information, though at first, this communication was primarily private via email and public through exchanges like Usenet. Usenet’s purpose was to serve as a public forum where anyone could contribute to the discussion of a topic.

The platform was primarily used by students who were looking to exchange ideas and hear from like-minded people. Academics made great use of the platform by posting questions in their desired newsgroups. Alt binary groups were specific forums where academics could gather and exchange files based on a common interest or discipline. Using alt binaries, users could exchange specified materials.

Though the platform initially just allowed users to share text (due to the limited bandwidth of the internet), consumers developed the desire to share digital files with each other. These digital files, also called binary data, could range from published papers to more simple files such as data spreadsheets. Within the newsgroups for binaries, users could share their digital files, making it an accessible hub for each subject. The impressive ability to also download any posted data files was a perk of having a NNTP account.

With such vast accessibility, a huge amount of content began to pile up on the servers, each assigned a retention level (in days) until the file is discarded. Imagine having a personal file of yours publicly available for up to 6 years!!!

Downloading with Usenet

The download process from Usenet is pretty straightforward, simply requiring a download client to connect to its service provider and specify which file was to be selected for downloading. The download itself is secure because it’s encrypted between your computer and UseNet through an SSL encrypted connection.

Usenet Risks

In addition to the download process being incredibly simple, there also aren’t any risks associated with downloading files using the platform as long as you use SSL to encrypt your connection. This is very different from torrents, where the risk of getting caught downloading content is much higher. On Usenet, users are not targeted for uploading to the platform unless they have abused their privileges.

Usenet’s Advantages

With Usenet, you’re able to protect your privacy by maintaining anonymity. With SSL encryption, the files uploaded or downloaded onto the platform cannot be seen, only the fact that you are connected to the platform. In addition to privacy of the content you’re downloading, it also works relatively quickly because downloads are sought out straight from a network backbone of the internet. What do backbones of the internet do? They make it possible for data to travel between devices and platforms by running fiber technology. There isn’t a limit to the type of content that could be uploaded, either. However, this platform can’t be all perfect, right? Next, we discuss the cons.

Usenet’s Disadvantages

The service is not free. Access requires money, adding to the cost of having a 10Gps network backbone. There’s a caveat to use the backbone as well. Those who have access to this backbone are required to contribute to the company’s maintenance costs. The monthly cost usually does not exceed $15, depending on your unlimited plan. The good part is that you’re not limited by the amount of content you can download or contribute. Newsgroup providers like Usenet Storm (https://www.usenetstorm.com) also have lower download limit options for new users.

how to download from usenet for free
how to download from usenet for free

What are Torrents?

Torrents are essentially a way to share files using an exchange method called peer to peer technology. What this means is a single individual can upload content to a torrent swarm, which will then make it accessible to other users for download. When you hear the term “torrent client“, you can just think of your computer. When you download such a file, you must keep in mind when opening it in your client that its connection to the torrent swarm is unencrypted, making it susceptible to eavesdropping. You may frequently hear the terms “peers” and “seeds“; these are the two elements that form a torrent swarm. Peers are the users who will do the uploading of the content. Seeds are finished downloads that are making their way to other peers within the torrent swarm. Anyone can see your activity due to the unencrypted nature of any torrent swarm activity.

Downloading Torrents:

Becoming part of a torrent swarm is pretty straightforward: using a torrent client, you open whichever torrent you retrieve from a tracker.  Some common examples of torrent clients include Transmission, uTorrent, Deluge, rTorrent and more.

*Important Note: If you download at any volume from torrents without using a VPN, it is likely that your downloads will be tracked by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Safest Way to Download Torrents:

To maximize security and anonymity when downloading from torrents, it’s important to use either a VPN or a Proxy Server. Sound complicated? Let us explain. Remember how we talked about encrypting? A VPN is used to encrypt your web traffic as you torrent, which masks your IP address (unique location of your computer, often used for identification and tracking). If your IP is masked, those who are watching over the activity of the torrent swarm see the VPN IP address rather than your actual computer’s IP address. You can implement a VPN using a service like Pure VPN or Private Internet Access.

Torrent’s Advantages

The simplicity of Torrent downloading makes it an appealing method to download content. All you have to do is download uTorrent (a torrent client) and use the tracker of your choice to download the file of your choosing. Once you open the torrent file in your torrent client, you will see that it begins to download.

The sense of community that comes with using Torrents is also beneficial to its users. Since the platform promotes sharing, content and media that’s no longer available to the general public can be easily found and enjoyed. You can often resort to Torrents if you can’t find the content you desire on Usenet. Additionally, DMCA takedowns are not a significant concern on Torrent sites, though certain Torrent sites (KickAssTorrents, for example) are vigilant about implementing DMCA takedown requests.

Torrent’s Disadvantages

The most prominent downside to using torrents is that anyone can access the Torrent swarm to download the specific torrent file, and exploit this ability to spy on the activity within the torrent swarm. This lack of security can be concerning for many who value their privacy. The ease with which a hacker can infiltrate the Torrent swarms is alarming because what you download is essentially available to others. Additionally, the speed is another aspect that is heavily impacted by whether the seed or peers have sufficient bandwidth. When you’re downloading from a Torrent, your personal internet connection’s bandwidth gets eaten up, which can slow down the internet for other devices in your house. Availability of seeding is also major to successful download from Torrents because without any actual seeds to download from, there’s no content to download.

Final Review on Usenet vs Torrent:

To summarize the stark differences between the two services, Usenet will provide a faster speed than that of the limited Torrent Swarm speed, which ends up being a major deciding factor for those seeking content. However, you will be charged if you use Usenet. Usenet is also far more secure because of SSL encryption, but Torrents are only really secure with a VPN, which will cost you around $5 per month. Lastly, DMCA takedowns are far less common on Torrents, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist at all.

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