From: jfh@rpp386.UUCP (John F. Haugh II)
Subject: The death of USENET
Summary: Now that we've killed ihnp4, let's try
killing the rest of the net.
Date: 11 Jun 88 15:08:03 GMT
Reply-To: jfh@rpp386.UUCP (The Beach Bum)
Organization: Big "D" Home for Wayward Hackers
In article <74...@swan.ulowell.edu>
bon...@hawk.ulowell.edu (SoftXc Coordinator) writes:
>I will be extending my offer of sending PICNIX parts to people until the
>20th. Instructions are below.
>One person (tellabs5!lash) I was unable to send to. If this person could
>contact me, I'll try to work something out.
Yesterday AT&T announced that ihnp4, cbosgd and att would be severing all
outside links and discontinuing third party mail. ihnp4 has been around
since I first started using the net 6 or 7 years ago, I do not welcome
it's passing any more than I welcomed the divestiture. But with abuses
such as these, I wonder why AT&T provided those machines free of charge
for the net for all of these years.
With the decision of AT&T to cease being such a major player in the
USENET arena I wonder how far DEC, IBM and Sun can be behind. It is
time we lined up to receive our punishment for the excesses of the past
5 or 10 years. And in the dieing moments of USENET, as the last
insignificant company announces that it too will no longer handle third
party mail [ but will willingly SELL you such a service ], there will be
Subject: PICNIX parts available by mail
and people will still be sending in those requests, having long since
forgotten that in it's hayday, USENET could still beat the USMAIL by
USENET has been mortally wounded with the passing of ihnp4. From where
I am sitting the prognosis is not good. How many hundreds or thousands
of systems will now be stranded? And how long before the increased
pressure of cummulative cruft on the remaining sites forces those machines
to also pass by the wayside?
From: ch...@plaid.Sun.COM (Chuq Von Rospach)
Subject: Re: The death of USENET
Date: 11 Jun 88 23:43:51 GMT
References: <firstname.lastname@example.org> <2645@rpp386.UUCP>
Reply-To: chuq@sun.UUCP (Chuq Von Rospach)
Organization: Fictional Reality
>Yesterday AT&T announced that ihnp4, cbosgd and att would be severing all
>outside links and discontinuing third party mail. ihnp4 has been around
>since I first started using the net 6 or 7 years ago, I do not welcome
>it's passing any more than I welcomed the divestiture. But with abuses
>such as these, I wonder why AT&T provided those machines free of charge
>for the net for all of these years.
>USENET has been mortally wounded with the passing of ihnp4. From where
>I am sitting the prognosis is not good. How many hundreds or thousands
>of systems will now be stranded? And how long before the increased
>pressure of cummulative cruft on the remaining sites forces those machines
>to also pass by the wayside?
The death knell for USENET has been rung many times in the past. By myself
more than once in the ten years I've been hanging around this place. I've
always counted myself lucky when I come in in the morning and USENET is
But somehow, almost miraculously, USENET's survived. Not just survived, but
prospered. Through the works of many folks -- Rick and Mark and Spaf and all
the others over the years -- and through some luck, it's survived.
This isn't the first time a change of this size and magnitude has occured,
frankly -- the passing of seismo and transfer of power to uunet; or the
shift of decvax from major node to sideliner. It's going to hurt. USENET is
going to have to accept it and modify itself to survive. It always has in
the past, though. I don't see any reason why that can't happen again.
There are two main thrusts that I think need to be considered here. Both have
been discussed many times in the past, privately, publicly, sometimes
heatedly. But it's time to deal with some issues instead of just argue them.
o Commercialization of USENET: face it. USENET is ALREADY commercial. Always
has been. Public access systems and uunet are not evil forces, they are
systems that recognize the needs of the net and its users (remember this,
something oft forgot here in the byte patterns: the NET is nothing. What
is good for the net is nothing. What matters is what is best for the
readers of the net, even if that means tearing it asunder)
It's time to stop decrying the "commercialization" of this "last bastion
of freedom of the universe" -- the bill has come due, and it should now be
obvious to all that USENET is not free, we've just been freeloading.
Freeloaders have no rights.
A major cornerstone of the future of USENET has to be services like uunet.
As AT&T goes, more and more backbones will be forced to follow, as folks
try to find other "free" services to feed their habits. And nobody, no
combination of backbones, can take up the slack for what AT&T's done. So
there will have to be a domino effect here. Uunet is going to be a
cornerstone, but I don't think it can do it alone. What will probably have
to happen is a new, "commercial" backbone of services like uunet that all
talk to each other and handle the connectivity of the network. No company
is going to be able to (much less willing to pay for) that anymore at the
o Everything for everybody: [excuse me, I need to get out my asbestos
crutches for this.....] The other realization that people have to make is
that USENET can no longer afford to be everything for everybodt. It is
simply TOO BIG. The traffic volume, and the attending E-mail, overwhelms
the system, and the system can't cope. It is time to take a close look at
USENET and what it ought to be, and then reshape the net to fit that
This will set a number of people adrift. So be it. The net can't support
everyone anymore; it's time to realize that and do some rational surgery
now rather than have the net die of obesity and lose it for everyone later.
I think it is time for USENET to diet.
USENET's focus started as, and it a good degree always has been, Unix and
computers (more or less in that order). That's what USENET is best at as
well. The other stuff, it's nice, as long as you can afford it, but
without the computer stuff, USENET wouldn't have ever gotten started.
Here's my proposal of cuts. Guaranteed, I'll bet, to piss off everyone in
some way or another. But when radical surgery is necessary, these things
happen. For USENET to survive, we need to cut:
o comp.sources.all, EXCEPT Unix sources.
o rec.all -- maybe keep rec.arts.sf-lovers.
o misc.all -- look at case by case.
And if, when that's done, we still haven't cut enough, cut the
microcomputer groups free.
The need is to bring USENET volume back down to tolerable levels -- which
I'm somewhat arbitrarily building a cutoff level of a megabyte of news a
day. About 1/3 of current levels.
This is going to be painful. For me, personally, it's especially painful
because if you look closely, I've targetted just about every USENET group
that means anything to me. But these are not times to be selfish. These are
times of survival. Which I hope sinks in around the net. But I doubt it.
Chuq Von Rospach ch...@sun.COM Delphi: CHUQ
Robert A. Heinlein: 1907-1988. He will never truly die as long as we
read his words and speak his name. Rest in Peace.
Xref: utzoo news.admin:2573 comp.mail.uucp:1359
From: ma...@cbnews.ATT.COM (Mark Horton)
Subject: The rebirth of USENET
Date: 13 Jun 88 18:20:14 GMT
Reply-To: ma...@stargate.COM (Mark Horton)
Organization: AT&T Bell Laboratories, Columbus
> Yesterday AT&T announced that ihnp4, cbosgd and att would be severing all
> outside links and discontinuing third party mail.
Please understand this is not what we are doing. We are not cutting
our outside links. In fact, it was a strong need to keep our outside links
running that led us to decide to stop passing third party email as the
best way to cut costs. Mail into and out of AT&T through the "att"
gateway will continue. "att" is serving as a professionally run
replacement for ihnp4 and cbosgd.
We are also not cutting off netnews (e.g. Usenet.) Our cutbacks all
involve email. AT&T has a management committment to support netnews.
> A major cornerstone of the future of USENET has to be services like uunet.
> As AT&T goes, more and more backbones will be forced to follow, as folks
> try to find other "free" services to feed their habits. And nobody, no
> combination of backbones, can take up the slack for what AT&T's done. So
> there will have to be a domino effect here. Uunet is going to be a
> cornerstone, but I don't think it can do it alone. What will probably have
> to happen is a new, "commercial" backbone of services like uunet that all
> talk to each other and handle the connectivity of the network. No company
> is going to be able to (much less willing to pay for) that anymore at the
> current size.
There is, in fact, a major reshaping of the email world in the works.
The current system is cooperative - people worry about delivering mail
first, and getting it paid for isn't a concern. The telephone network
was in a state similar to this in 1910 or so. There were many disconnected
telephone systems, and some people offered gateways by subscribing to
more than one and holding phones up to each other.
With X.400 beginning to be offered, commercial mail services are springing
up. These include ATTMAIL, Canada's Envoy, Britain's BTI, and so on.
There are others, not all are X.400: MCIMAIL, Easylink, Dialnet, etc.
(There are also services like UUNET which charge by connect time, and
which are nonprofit. They don't seem to count.)
These services all charge the *sender* (except for COD mail) for each
message, and in general worry more about getting paid than about delivering
the message. So they won't pass a message unless they know who to bill.
As long as the commercial services are small, there's a horrible barrier
between the two: nobody will admit to having a gateway because mail
through them would be charged to the gateway. The commercial services
will only send mail to places they have signed service agreements with
As the commercial services grow (there is an assumption that the bulk of
the business users of email will sign up with commercial services instead
of rolling their own in a cooperative network, and that we technical folks
represent a tiny part of the market) the cooperative world will have more
and more interest in talking to customers of commercial services. At
some point, the center of gravity will shift to the commercial services
and the cooperative folks will wind up hurting. The money that's funding
the cooperative networks may dry up as the sugar daddies put it into
commercial systems instead. Eventually we'll be at the level of HAM
radio: small and specialized, and unable to be self sufficient. (A more
frightening thought is that we may become, indeed are becoming, like CB
radio: too much noise and too little signal.)
(By the way, the commercial world is serious about email, but doesn't
know what to do about netnews. It doesn't seem interested in it.)
Over the next 5 or 10 years, the face of the world will change. We must
either adapt to the change, or go away. The commercial services point
out how much better off the world would be if everyone used the commercial
services - a maximum of 2 hops, support, reliablity, very fast cross
country delivery of email, access to the postal mail, telex, fax, etc.
They also point out how the cooperative networks are paying the costs,
often very high costs, but these costs are hidden as part of the usage
of people, machinery, phone lines, and so on. On a nationwide basis,
there is certainly an economy of scale.
If you look at the telephone network (or the package delivery network)
you see there are common carriers, and there are local endpoints.
There is often no choice of local endpoint: you have one local phone
company, or one company shipping & receiving department. But the
sender, who pays for the call/package, chooses a common carrier to pay
from several that are available. The common carriers compete among
In our world, the cooperative networks are just another common carrier
(or group of common carriers.) If it's cheaper to deliver your mail
yourself, you'll do it. I'm not going to put a stamp on a note to my
5 year old, either, or on company internal mail. PBX systems don't
charge for calls to another extension.
The commercial networks won't sign exchange agreements with cooperative
networks, however. They want their money, and with random incoming
mail from UUCP, you don't know who to send the bill to. In X.400 terms,
exchange agreements are for ADMDs (Adminstration Management Domains)
and not for PRMDs (Private Management Domains), and ARPA, UUCP, BITNET,
et al are PRMDs.
It may be necessary for the cooperative nets to become ADMDs, either
collectively or separately. This could give them the clout and equality
they need to survive and still have universal service. Each government
decides who is an ADMD, and as far as I know, the US government has not
yet stepped into the picture.
There is another model besides the "lots of common carriers, sender
chooses" model. In that model, the commercial services are both
common carriers and endpoints. To send mail to a user at a particular
endpoint, on a particular common carrier, you must pay that common
carrier. Sender pays, but recipient chooses who the sender pays.
I'm told that this is becoming a de-facto standard, that the commercial
services put all their employees on their own service, as well as
their customers, and they can only be reached through their own service.
(In the case of two commercial carriers, there is a surcharge, not unlike
buying more stamps to send a letter to a foreign country. The two
carriers split the postage.) For a company that is new and their
employees were never reachable by email before, this might work.
But the eventual ramifications of this model for large companies,
such as IBM, which owns MCIMAIL, are clear. It is for this reason
that I personally prefer the "whoever pays chooses who they buy
service from" model.
Anyway, some evolution of the cooperative networks is inevitible.
DOD wants out of the ARPANET business. Seismo and AT&T want out
of the third-party-email-pass-through-for-free business. Many users
of UUCP use UUCP email because no commercial service is available,
and will shift to the commercial services. Those of us who are left
need to decide how we want to fit into this brave new world, and
One thing we ought to be thinking about is making netnews more
independent of email. Right now netnews depends on existing UUCP
email for lots of things: replies, moderated postings, control
messages, test messages, setup, error messages, etc. (Can anyone
add to this list?) As email as we know it crumbles, we need to
make netnews more self sufficient.
We also need to be thinking about fitting into the ADMD commercial
From: s...@ulysses.homer.nj.att.com (Steven Bellovin)
Subject: Re: The death of USENET
Date: 14 Jun 88 18:31:49 GMT
References: <email@example.com> <2645@rpp386.UUCP> <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: AT&T Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill
Let me try to offer a brief summary on what's going on at AT&T Bell
Laboratories regarding Usenet. This is not an official statement by
the company, but I was involved in many of the discussions that lead
up to the new policy.
In a sentence, what triggered all this was that top management (*very*
top management) noticed Usenet, and wondered if it was a Bad Thing.
Bad Things, in corporate America, are those that cost money, and it's
fairly obvious that Usenet has that potential in a lot of ways. There
are obvious things like phone costs and disk space; there are less
obvious ones like employees reading netnews during work hours. And
there was concern about lawsuits -- is AT&T liable for libel? what
if someone uses a comp.sources program alleged to be public domain
but not really? Etc.
After many meetings, reports, task forces, arguments, etc., the company
decided to manage netnews. I won't go into all the details about what
that means internally, but one decision was to centralize the external
newsfeeds. Such machines obviously need to be mail gateways as well;
this idea was useful for other reasons, such as providing internal users
with high-quality mail service to the outside world. To encourage
migration to these gateways, a committment was made to provide official
funding and staffing -- netnews and mail is *not* a part-time activity
for the administrators of these machines. (That, by the way, is why
folks can, should, and will subscribe to commercial email networks:
managing connectivity on a large-scale basis is much harder than just
sticking a line in the uucp Systems or L.sys file.)
The price of official support, though, is official control, and top
management did not feel that we should pay for carrying other folks'
traffic. This is especially true when you realize that our gateways
would then compete with our own commercial service, ATTMAIL. Hence
the decision to stop forwarding 3rd-party mail.
Note what we're not doing:
a) We're not cutting off email contacts to the outside world.
b) We're not dropping off of Usenet -- it's officially blessed
here, though there may be some deletions from the list of
newsgroups carried. (I've personally recommended that as
a matter of corporate policy, binary groups be dropped --
the existence of electronic vandals makes such programs too
risky to the company. We also don't permit people to bring
c) We're also not cutting off internal feeds, at least not as
a matter of High Policy. Some local decisions may have
been made -- Bell Labs is a big place -- but I can state
categorically that that is not Bell Labs-wide policy. A lot
of wild rumors have been floating around about this; any
time a news feed hiccups, 17 worried postings appear asking
if the axe has dropped.
d) We're not cutting off our backbone machines without a lot
of thought, preparation, and planning. Such a change probably
will happen eventually; hence most AT&T machines will be
deleted from the external backbone at some point.
None of this has to do with JJ or any other single incident; the origins
of this go back over a year, with some aspects going back to at least 1982.
AT&T Bell Laboratories