Friday, October 9, 2009

Impress Your Professor: Usenet Cautionary Tale

The new deadline for the revised Google Books Settlement is exactly a month away, and the web continues to hum with wildly varying perspectives. Google is shiny, sleek, and overwhelmingly competent-- when they want to be. In a particularly interesting cautionary tale, Kevin Poulsen uncovers what happens when Google gets bored with a project. The Usenet archive, which Google purchased in 2001, spans the history of the internet as we know it (and for many of us, far before we knew it); starting in 1980, this newsgroup functioned as a primary definitive record for the early web days. Its 700 million articles are now buried in Google Groups, basically unsearchable unless you already have a direct link. From unprofitable archives to orphan books, handing over information monopolies to major corporations can lead to serious accessibility issues.

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