Usenet is the oldest bulletin board network on the internet and has tremendously influenced much of the Internet we know today. Most 'netiquette' rules used in email and web communication were developed decades ago on Usenet. Text smiles ( :) ) and common acronyms (LOL) are some examples. Spam, now a common problem for anyone with an email address, was first sent via Usenet (although this is largely not the case currently). Online message boards owe quite a lot to Usenet. Users adopt pseudonyms and post messages that any other user can read. Sometimes discussions decline into arguments and insults, becoming 'flame wars', another term first coined on Usenet.
Usenet was first created in the late 70s as a dedicated location for students and professors to exchange academic information. For this task, Usenet was very successful, and universities and research organizations rapidly joined the network. Private internet service providers also began allowing Usenet access to home users. With the influx of new users, Usenet became host to many topics, many having nothing to do with academia. Today, Usenet is most commonly accessed by the public at large, but many universities and researches still make use of the network as it was originally conceived.
Usenet is a distributed technology, meaning that there is no single point-of-entry to the network, and no single entity controls the network. Instead, there are standards specified for the technical operation of a Usenet server that all providers adhere to. Usenet servers from different providers typically have peering arrangements that allow them to pull data from and feed data to one another. This way, a user connected to one particular Usenet provider can communicate with users connected to any other provider, and all users will see the same content, regardless of who is providing their access.
Different topics on Usenet are organized into newsgroups, which are dedicated solely to the topic at hand. Today, there are thousands of newsgroups devoted to countless subjects. Most Usenet providers do not block or censor newsgroups, but some groups are moderated by their participants. Usenet is seen by many as a haven for free speech, and the open, distributed nature of the network means that it is largely uncensored.
Usenet is a relatively old technology, and its unique history has made it one of the pillars of the internet as we currently know it. The notion that anybody on earth can connect to an open, uncensored medium has contributed to its longevity, and this concept will ensure that Usenet lasts long into the future.