Off-topic: Usenet archiving history

David Bolen db3l.net at gmail.com
Sun Jun 14 09:33:10 CEST 2009


Dennis Lee Bieber <wlfraed at ix.netcom.com> writes:

> 	Either way -- it was still a change from "expiration at some
> date"... Though since (Netcom/Mindspring)Earthlink seems to have
> subcontracted NNTP service to Giganews (or some such) it wouldn't
> surprise me to learn that service also keeps a mammoth archive...

I'm not sure it's really a change, or if it is, it certainly isn't a
change from how things were originally.  "Expiration at some date" was
never any sort of global policy for Usenet - just an aspect of a
individual news server.  Some servers held messages for long periods,
particularly for the big seven groups - it's true that alt.* and in
particular the binaries, might expire quickly.  I know I certainly ran
some servers that didn't bother expiring - or had expiration times in
years - of the big seven.  My experience post-dates the great
renaming, so I can't speak to before that, but don't think behavior
was very different.

Individual messages could include an Expires: header if they wished,
but even that was just a suggestion.  Any actual expiration was due to
local configuration on each news server, which while it could take
Expires: headers into account, was just as often driven by local
storage availability or the whims of the local news admin :-)

I think Deja News was providing web access to their archive from the
mid-90s on (so quite a while before Google even existed) so certainly
by that point everyone had access to a rather complete archive even if
messages had expired on their local server.  I think Deja was also the
first to introduce X-No-Archive.  But other archives certainly existed
pre-Deja, which I'm sure is, in large part, how Google was able to
locate and incorporate the older messages into their system after
their acquisition of the Deja archive.

-- David



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