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When it comes to file-sharing, Usenet has long been considered an underground venue. Its odd archive formats and weird file extensions were just too complicated for the average user, and tasks like finding and merging 400 parts of a movie download seemed a little too laborious in comparison to the ease of use of BitTorrent. However, indexing web sites, meta file formats and a new generation of download managers are making Usenet more and more accessible every day.
Take BinTube for example. The Windows-only application looks more like your average media player than a complicated download client, and it offers a feature called “Usenet streaming”: Instead of waiting for all parts of a movie to be downloaded, it starts playing the video after receiving the first part, with downloads continuing in the background. Yes, I know — technically that’s “progressive downloading,” not “streaming.” Still, it’s light-years from what Usenet used to be.
BinTube is essentially a Usenet download client that hides all the unnecessary details from its users and integrates VLC to play pretty much any video format available for download. Archived videos are automatically unpacked, and videos are played with as little as 1 percent of total data downloaded. BinTube also offers a web-based Usenet index to make it easier to find and download files. Users can search for videos by title or scour through dozens of newsgroups to look for available downloads.
Granted, BinTube isn’t perfect. The program fails to play some titles at all, and others can only be played back after a complete download. More often that not, it works just as advertised, playing videos in near real time after just a few minutes of initial downloading. But aside from that, functionality is pretty limited. Downloads have to be manually deleted after you’re done watching them, and it’s not possible to automatically download each new episode of a specific show.
Still, software like BinTube is a big step for Usenet users, and that will probably make some people pretty nervous. Usenet is regarded as a sort of fight club of the file-sharing world, and as such the unwritten rule is that you don’t talk about Usenet so as not to attract any unwanted attention.
Of course, the cat has long been out of the bag. Usenet service providers have plastered the web with ads for their offerings, and the RIAA has already sued one such company. Ironically it’s the lawsuits of the entertainment industry that have driven more and more users to Usenet in order to shield themselves from potential liabilities. BinTube will only accelerate this trend.