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Barbarians at the gates

© August 2003 Tony Lawrence

Sun Aug 3 21:27:54 GMT 2003

Microsoft, not content with having damn near ruined email, now wants to move into Usenet News.

Some of the folks who read this aren't going to understand why this prospect is so disturbing. It's because by bringing in millions more clueless users who will ignore the customs and conventions of Usenet, they will adversely affect those of us happily using it now. We have enough top-posting, no-context, and dumb html posts already; we don't need Microsoft encouraging people. Apparently AOL's newsreader already is already doing its own form of damage by making their users think that all of a thread is always present for everyone else to see. That's not the case, but AOL users don't know that, which causes them to leave out context and treat News as though it were a bulletin board. No doubt the Microsoft version will do the same thing and more.

Do I sound a bit elitist? Are you getting the impression that the I don't welcome the great unwashed invading the last bastion of Usenet As It Was? You are darn tooting right I don't.

There are plenty of HTML based, context based discussion sites on the Net. These are just the place for those who don't understand that HTML has no place in Usenet, that top posting just messes up everything, and that judicious trimming of context is necessary.

But I might as well go scream at the tide. Microsoft will blunder into Usenet, trampling about like the clumsy elephant it is, and while they won't destroy it, they will seriously lessen its value. Inevitable and tragic. And I could be wrong: they actually could destroy Usenet as we know it now.

I'm ranting, of course, babbling on about something nobody cares about precisely because of its user unfriendliness. I feel like Jerry Williams, who was a long time talk radio host here in the Northeast. In his last few years, Jerry became disgusted with what he saw radio talk becoming, and would frequently say "I'm getting out of the business". That's just how I feel when I read about this kind of thing. Yes, I am being a crufty old curmudgeon. For the vast majority, Microsoft will no doubt "improve" Usenet. I and all the other long time Usenet folks may not like the improvements, but that's our problem.

But just because we're helpless to stop it doesn't mean we can't complain bitterly when progress drives right over us.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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