Free USENET Servers
Table of contents
1. Free news servers
A free USENET server is a USENET server which can be used by clients without paying money. "Free" means free of charge and denotes only a sort of economical relation between clients and administrators. There are several different kinds of free servers and each one has its own characteristics. Almost all these hosts protect themselves from unauthorized actions through and in most cases they adopt an authentication mechanism in order to prevent abuses and increase their users’ loyalty. This implies that the clients have to register before starting to make use of these hosts and the registration process implies a disclosure of personal data. This is the price you pay for getting the service for free ; hence ``free’’ in these cases is quite questionable. Many free servers are promotional hosts. Those who manage a commercial USENET server or also a service provider could consider a basic NNTP free service as an advertising investment, hence they’re not really free ; they just earn they profits by indirect means. For example, Teranews.com offers their ``free accounts’’ for a one time fee of $3.95. Hence, they call it ``FREE*’’ with an asterisk as is usually seen in commercial advertisements ; all messages posted from this type of account end up with their bodies altered to the effect that a signature is added with an ad by Teranews.com and such thing is nowhere warned on their website. These servers often have privacy policies that allow the owners to sell the clients personal data to a third party and all services are provided without warranty. Even though users may initially use them for free, these hosts are commercial projects and the users pay the services through the spam legally sent to their email addresses. On the other hand, this kind of server is usually fast and reliable because the company owners have resources and a commercial interest in a good quality service. Some universities are sponsoring free news servers. The University of Aalborg (in Denmark) is offering free accounts on its hosts. University servers are really fast and well managed but they usually carry only a limited number of groups and the access could be restricted for non-members ; also, registration is often an obscure process. There are also people who make business selling protected accounts to spammers. In order to keep their overall spam ratio low, they often offer a sort of free access to their hosts. In these cases the free users act as a shield because their messages partially cover the spammer’s activity. Their quality of service is extremely low and often the messages sent through these hosts are refused by the other servers even if they don’t include spam contents. A few non-profit organizations offer free NNTP servers. Their terms of usage are extremely varied and their quality reflects their available economical resources at the moment. Usually these servers protect the clients’ privacy and they’re carefully managed by the administrators. On the other hand, their availability can be scanty and the access rules could be changed without any previous notice. Servidellagleba is a good Italian example. Aioe.org is a true free NNTP service access to the plain text side of USENET which is the important side of the USENET because it is the side that allows communication between people, an important resource for the world --- see, for example, ``The Social Forces Behind the Development of Usenet’’ by Michael Hauben.
2. Public news servers
A public news server is a host which accepts, for free, incoming connections from every IP address without requiring authentication. Everyone can access without limitation. Public news servers work as an ISP’s news server but these hosts are configured to serve whoever tries to connect. This is the main difference between free and public hosts. Of course, all public servers are also free of charge. There are basically three kinds of public news servers : test servers, misconfigured hosts and those sites which are deliberately kept open for various reasons. Sometimes, the developers of a new NNTP site can choose to temporarily open their servers in order to test them. This kind of site quickly disappears because they’re closed for public users as soon as these hosts become stable. In the meantime they’re fast and powerful but their availability could be poor. Incompetent administrators sometimes make severe mistakes configuring their own hosts. In the past years, abandoned servers and misconfigured hosts were the cause of large spam abuses but today they’re uncommon because bandwidth is at a premium and nobody wishes to waste money. A few non profit organizations keep open their servers deliberately. In the Third World, NNTP servers are rare because they require many resources without providing large earnings. USENET is a global communication system yet in many countries around the globe, freedom of speech is not tolerated or is heavily restricted. For many people a few dollars are the monthly wage, also their personal data disclosure could be a problem to them or their families because of political circumstance. A host which doesn’t require authentication could be safely used via sock servers or proxies because any password is exchanged. All these hosts impose on their users several access limits in order to keep low their spam ratio but they also strictly protect their client’s privacy. They are last resort sites designed for those who aren’t able to adopt a better solution : they’re usually much slower than commercial ones, binary groups are not carried in order to save bandwidth and their availability isn’t excellent. People who can choose probably should use other hosts. Aioe.org and Bananasplit are the most famous public servers.