The curious saga of Newzbin

There's a place called usenet. an old place, ancient even. Before there was an internet, there was usenet, before there was forums and twitter and facebook, there was Usenet. and today, with the rest of the next running on Web 4/0 tactical Feedback and Social Webworking technologies, Usenet still stands. Dusty but faithful, forgotten, but present.

Usenet used to be the Forum's of yesteryear, the old image of the Internet Nerd being a guy who posts arguments regarding Star Trek uniforms on the net stems from actual shit that actually got posted on Usenet every day. This is back when maybe 2 people were online mind you. Sounds exciting I know.

These days, like all protocols online, it's used for Porn and Filesharing. There's also legitimate conversation for people too set in their ways to give up, more power to them I suppose.

This is where our story starts, on a website known as Newzbin, a prominent player in the Usenet filesharing world. One of the biggest indexing sites ever (Usenet works fundamentally differently than torrents, imagine Indexing sites as address books, pointing you toward the files you want) and inverters of the now universal NZB file time (a kind of set of directions through Usenet, if you will). Newzbin was chugging along quite happily until last year, when they caught the attention of the MPAA. The MPAA did as the MPAA is want to do and sued.

What followed was a year long court case, the MPAA tried to get Newzbin's users details, Newzbin made some hilarious arguments toward the validity of their business and in the end, Newzbin lost and went under. No more Newzbin.

In a way, it was like if Pirate's bay went down. But if Pirate's bay was populated by 50 year old internet veterans. It brought with it a wake up call to the Usenet world, obscurity is not enough to protect them. Although Usenet is a marginally unknown bit of tech, the big businesses certainly know about it by now.

So users migrated to various different services, sad at the loss of Newzbin. Most complained that the replacement sites had half of Newzbin's functions and many cost more to use. sad times for everyone who used the service.

Then, about a week after Newzbin's closure, Everyone previously signed up to Newzbin received a mysterious email from a Mr White. Mr White claimed to now be in control of Newzbin's databases and webcode, that him and an expert team had stolen it from the previous owners during a hack several months ago and were in the process of updating it, and bringing Newzbin back online. They'd even procured the domain name in some kind of backroom deal.

At this point, everyone flipped their shit. Accusations of identity stealing, credit card gathering and all manner of unhappy nastiness were thrown about with abandon. And who can blame people? A strange and mysterious reservoir dog's fan has control of a site you pay for the use off. Email addresses, names, addresses, possibly credit cards at his disposal. Anything could happen. And this promise of reviving the site? So soon after the MPAA had sued the previous owners? Why, for a start? Did this insane man not understand the risk he was taking?

One thing was for certain. The next few days and weeks would be, if nothing else, interesting.

So for several days, various news blogs dedicated to Usenet spoke about the subject, posting theories. Usenet user's made do with whatever site's and services they'd gotten elseworlds. Then, as promised, Newzbin2 clawed from the ashes, like a a magicians trick, the site was back again. It lacked one or two features, buggy but essentially, this was Newzbin, with the ever mysterious MrWhite at the helm.

Fear stayed high. This wasn't supposed to happen! The bad guy's had won. We know, from experiance, that the world does not work like the movies, promises like MrWhite's go unfulfilled and the big bad companies always win. Always. But not that day. That day, just for a moment, the world was like the movies and games and books that Newzbin's customer's had been downloading. The website had been taken over by a ragtag group of mysterious hackers, hellbent on their own morals and ideas of freedom. The team grew larger and larger, Database admin's, web programmers and moderators all joined the group as Newzbin2 recouped the lost faith and trust. MrWhite gave every user a large number of free Newzbin credit and, somehow, a glimer of the old Web shone on a moment longer.

To this day, the website is still run by the mysterious group who call themselves TeamRDogs. The group posts information on the current crackdown on filesharing, methods of getting around internet blacklists and have discussed plans to release the Newzbin code and databases to the wild. They have multiple servers established around the world and a system to rout people if their main site falls under. They are prepared.

As for the MPAA. TeamRDogs' have said they have been contacted, and suspect that the MPAA may strike again. However, they have also been compliment with any and all takedown notices, using the law to their advantage. They promise that the site will stay up this time, and they are prepared to fight the giants.

And so the tale comes to an end, at least for now. Newzbin2 is still up and running, and TeamRDogs is still posting. The site is being improved on every day and MrWhite and his team continue to represent an age long gone for the Web. A time when the power for changed still laid in the hands of the individual, when big businesses still scoffed at the power of the net and before they began to buy it up for themselves. Maybe TeamRDogs represent a vision of our future, perhaps there will be a time when we stand up against what we feel is injustice and make a stand, against all accusations and on-comers. Or perhaps they're simply out for the money, and will soon steal the Newzbin collection of credit cards. Who knows. Only time will truly tell. All I know is I'm happy to live in such interesting times.

Just as a heads up. The question of the legality of Newzbin is not in question. I do not condon the services they provide nor do I make use of them. If TeamRDogs had done the same to some out of work chinese paper airplane model site, I'd have made the same post.
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