Remember Usenet? Its newsgroups were the beating heart of online debate for many years but have fallen from favour in recent years as Web forums and social media services took their place. It’s still very much alive though, and Google Groups is a popular way for its users to stay updated. At least, it was until a week ago, when it stopped updating.
While Groups has continued to let users browse archived posts up to 2nd August, all newsgroups across the whole of Usenet appear as they haven’t been updated since that date. In actual fact, Groups has simply stopped updating Usenet. Comparing, for example, rec.music.beatles on Google Groups and Derkieler, you can see that the newsgroup is alive and well – it’s just not being updated by Google.
Users of the service have been complaining about the outage on Google’s own support forums (here, here and here) to seemingly no official response. We approached Google for its side of the story and received this statement:
“Beginning last week, Groups had intermittent issues with mirroring Usenet messages, that means messages posted to usenet experienced a delay in appearing in google groups. We have identified the issue, and are in the process of patching it. In the next few days, the Usenet archives will catch up and become current again.
All other Google Groups are functioning normally and messages are being archived correctly on Groups. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our users.”
Despite Google’s claim of ‘delays’, the Usenet groups we’ve looked at on Groups have had no updates at all since 2 August. However, it appears that all will soon be back to normal for Groups users. Still, the fact that it took Google a week to acknowledge the problem shows that Usenet probably isn’t at the top of its agenda… understandable, really.