Usenet, a global network of discussion and file-sharing, is a hidden treasure trove of information and media.
But, did you know that not everything posted on Usenet is available forever? Almost every message and file on Usenet has an expiration date, which varies by Usenet Provider.
This is where Usenet retention comes into play. In this article, we will explore what Usenet retention is, why it matters, and how your choice of Usenet provider impacts retention.
What Is Usenet Retention?
Usenet retention is the period during which articles, messages, and files posted on Usenet are stored and made accessible to users. It is typically measured in days or years.
Retention isn’t universal and each Usenet provider will have its own retention policies. Retention periods vary widely between services. Most Usenet providers have retention policies of 1-10 years.
Why Retention Matters
Usenet retention may seem not seem important at first glance. After all, why do you care how long a file sits on a server?
But retention can have a huge impact on your usenet experience, especially if you often download older or hard-to-find content.
Here’s why retention matters on Usenet:
- Access to Older Content: The longer the retention, the further back in time you can go to access articles and files. This makes it much easier to find older content or niche content that was uploaded years ago.
- Complete Downloads: High retention makes it easier to download larger files that might be split into smaller parts across multiple hosts.
- Reduced Storage Needs: You don’t need to stockpile downloads and fill up your hard drive if you know the file will still be accessible if you want it in the future.
Factors Affecting Retention
Usenet retention periods aren’t consistent or universal. They’re set individually by the Usenet Host that stores the content on their servers. That’s why it’s important to consider a service’s retention policy when choosing a provider.
Several factors can influence retention levels:
- Usenet Service Provider: Different providers offer varying retention periods. When choosing a provider, check their retention policy.
- Server Infrastructure: The technology and resources a provider invests in their server infrastructure affect how long they can retain articles.
- Content Type: Binary newsgroups, which contain large files, may have shorter retention than text-based messages. Text content uses much less bandwidth and storage capacity than binary files.
In general, premium (more expensive) Usenet providers tend to have longer retention policies. This makes logical sense. Longer retention means more server costs and disk usage, which costs money. Budget providers tend to have lower retention periods.
What retention length is best?
In the early days of Usenet, 90-day retention was considered great. Nowadays, top providers are cracking the 5,000 day mark. That’s more than 12 years of file retention.
Better yet, these retention periods aren’t static, they keep growing by 1 every single day.
Of course, long retention comes with tradeoffs, usually in terms of the sheer number of available files. After all, the longer you keep something on your server, the less room there is for other files.
How much retention is enough?
Anything over 4,000 is good enough in my book. Ideally you’ll want a provider that keeps expanding the retention period, so files currently available will remain available (perhaps indefinitely).
Anything less than 1,000 days is a deal-breaker for me, and nearly all providers in this category are ‘budget’ providers, aiming to be the cheapest rather than the best. I don’t mind paying for quality.
What happens after the retention period expires?
Most hosts will voluntarily delete the file(s) as soon as the retention period expires.
Some Usenet providers can extend retention using a process called ‘Spooling’ where the file is temporarily moved to another storage platform, then added back to Usenet, resetting the retention counter to 0.
Real-World benefits of Long Retention:
Long-Term Archiving and Preservation
Usenet plays a unique role in long-term archiving and preserving historical data.
Usenet is a repository for many old discussions, articles, and files that are nearly impossible to find easily on the modern surface web (e.g. Google search).
Some enthusiasts and organizations actively work to preserve Usenet content, recognizing its value as a historical record.
Better Completion Rates
When downloading binary files on Usenet (e.g. Media/Software), files will be spread across multiple (often hundreds) of individual ‘messages’. Getting the entire file (100% completion) is more challenging for older files as some individual messages may get deleted earlier.
That’s why a provider with long (and ideally increasing) retention is your best bet for higher completion rates and more reliable access to binaries and other Usenet messages.
Finding and Downloading Older Content
Usenet retention enables you to access older content, but how do you find and download it? Here are some strategies:
- Indexing Sites: Use Usenet indexing sites like NZBGeek, DogNZB, and others to find and download content. These sites often have older articles in their archives.
- Search Tools: Some Usenet service providers offer powerful search tools that allow you to search for older content based on keywords.
- NZB Files: NZB files are like search queries for Usenet. You can use them to find and download specific articles or files, even if they are old.
Usenet Providers ranked by Retention
When selecting a Usenet service provider, it’s essential to consider their retention policy. This table contains the current retention periods for the most popular Usenet hosts.
|Provider||Retention Period (days)|
Summary & Resources
Retention is an important consideration when choosing a Usenet provider.
Longer retention periods can significantly improve your Usenet experience because of:
- Longer file availability
- Better Completion rates
Premium (more expensive) usenet providers tend to have better retention than budget providers too, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
And don’t forget, retention isn’t thing to consider when choosing a usenet provider. You’ll also want to consider factors like bandwidth, performance, ease-of-use and storage capacity. After all, what good is 5,000 days of retention if the library of available files is small.