Death of Newsgroups

By Xah Lee. Date:

Microsoft is closing down their newsgroups. See:

From: n…
Date: Thu, 01 Jul 2010 12:35:29 -0700
Local: Thurs, Jul 1 2010 3:35 pm
Subject: Final Reminder - Microsoft Responds to the Evolution of Community


I use comp.lang.lisp, comp.emacs since about 1999. Have been using them pretty much on a monthly basis in the past 10 years. Starting about 2007, the traffic has been increasingly filled with spam, and the posters are always just the 20 or 30 known faces. I think perhaps maybe no more than 100 different posters a year. Since this year or last year, comp.lang.lisp is some 95% spam.

comp.emacs is pretty much just me now. is not much better. It's pretty much the same developers and the same few elisp coders, with perhaps 1 new face with once-per-lifetime post every few days. It is doing a bit better because it is connected to FSF's mailing list.

comp.lang.perl.misc is dead few years ago. It's filled with just snippet of FAQs that's posted by machine. There's perl.beginners since 2002, and it's a moderated group.

The one newsgroup that i use that's still healthy is comp.lang.python. Part of the reason it's healthy because it's connected to a mailing list, and python has become a mainstream lang. Though, it is also infected by a lot spam in late years.

I did a study of language popularity in 2006 by graphing newsgroup traffic thru the years. See: Computer Language Popularity Trend. I thought about updating it now and then, but it's useless if the majority of posts are machine generated spam.

For vast majority of people who are not a regular user of newsgroups in the 1990s or earlier, i suppose newsgroup has been dead since perhaps 2002.

Much of public discussion for programing happens in email forums and web forums. For example, Microsoft has technet, Apple has dozens of mailing list of its tech on its site, Google has too many of its own tech discussion groups, each with a mailing list, blog, web feed, and whatever new communication tech they are inventing. PHP, one of the top 5 most popular lang since about ≈2001, does not have a newsgroup, but it has official discussion forum and wiki, besides many unofficial ones. And lately there's Stack overflow, a mostly Q and A forum for any programing lang or computing tech. It has become quite popular. And there's also Math Overflow for math.

It's somewhat sad. Because newsgroup once was the vibrant hotbed for uncensored information and free-speech, with incidences that spawned main stream public awareness, policies debate and change, or change of nations. (exposure of Scientology being one famous example, then there's Cindy's Torment censorship, then i remember also several cases of political dirty secrets being released in newsgroups ) These days, much of this happens in the blogs and there's Wikileaks. (for a recent example of major social impact from Wikipleaks, see: Leaked Video US Helicopter Killing Video.)