A Complete Guide to Usenet Backbones

What are Usenet backbones, why do they matter, and how to choose the right one(s) for you?

Best Usenet Backbone

Here’s your complete guide to Usenet backbone servers.

Let’s start by answering the question: what are Usenet backbones?

Backbones are basically the ground level of Usenet servers which provide access to newsgroups and the posts found in newsgroups.

If you’ve come across the term “Tier-1 Usenet provider”, this means the provider has direct access to a Usenet backbone. Other providers get their access as resellers of these parent backbone providers.

An example of this would be Giganews, which is a Tier-1 provider with its own backbone, while Supernews is a reseller of the Giganews backbone.

In other words, as the operators of Usenet’s backbone servers, these providers are the foundation that makes everything possible, from reading and posting in newsgroups to downloading binaries.


What Makes Usenet Backbones Different?

Usenet Backbones Checklist

There are several key factors to consider when comparing Usenet backbones:

  • Retention:
    The longer the retention, the better – at least for the most part. But backbones with low retention rates can still be quite useful, especially as backups.
  • Account types (Unlimited or Block):
    Unlimited accounts act like a subscription, allowing you to download as much as you want for the period you signed up.

    In contrast, block accounts let you download a set amount of data, often with no expiration date on the block of data you purchased, meaning you can use them whenever you want. Use all of it today, or use 10GBs today and the rest ten months from now.

    Most Usenet veterans prefer to have an unlimited account as their primary account, with one or more block accounts as backup for hard-to-get files.
  • Server locations (US or EU):
    While some backbones offer servers in both the US and EU, you’ll typically want to pick the region that’s closest to you.
  • Takedown type (DMCA or NTD):
    You can find a detailed explanation of DMCA vs NTD here, but basically they dictate how and when files are removed from Usenet newsgroups for alleged copyright infringement. DMCA takedowns (applying mostly to US providers) happen slightly faster than NTD takedowns (applying mostly to European providers), so it can be a good idea to have backbone providers that follow different takedown types. That way, more files will remain available for download. 

Of course, there’s one other variable: price. But this is dictated more by the specific provider and not the backbone. Even providers on the same backbone can vary a lot in price.

Paying for different Usenet accounts on the same backbone is a waste of money. So, diversify! 

Usenet Provider Map: List of Backbones

Here are the best Usenet backbone providers available today including their resellers and vital statistics (in alphabetical order):

     Abavia

     Resellers:

XS News, Bulknews, Cheapnews, XS Usenet, StingyUsenet

     Retention:

2,300+ days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers in:

Europe

     Takedowns:

DMCA

     Giganews

     Resellers:

     Retention:

1,100+ days

     Block Accounts:

No

     Servers in:

USA and Europe

     Takedowns:

DMCA

     Omicron

All four of the following backbones are owned by Omicron, but they’re still separate backbones, with slightly different features.

Eweka

     Reseller:

     Retention:

4,900+ days

     Block Accounts:

No

     Servers in:

Europe

     Takedowns:

NTD

Highwinds Media

     Resellers:

     Retention:

4,900+ days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers:

USA and Europe

     Takedowns:

DMCA

Base IP

     Reseller:

TweakNews, XLNed, Sunny Usenet, Pure Usenet, UsenetBucket

     Retention:

4,200+ days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers:

Europe

     Takedowns:

NTD

     Usenet.Farm

     Reseller:

     Retention:

Up to 3,000 days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers in:

EU

     Takedowns:

NTD

    UsenetExpress

UsenetExpress

     Resellers:

UsenetExpress, NewsDemon, theCubeNet, ThunderNews, UsenetPrime

     Retention:

3,000+ days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers in:

USA and Europe

     Takedowns:

DMCA

NewsgroupDirect

    Resellers:


NewsgroupDirect, MaximumUsenet

     Retention:

Less than 100 days (backfilled by UsenetExpress)

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers in:

USA and Europe

     Takedowns:

DMCA

     ViperNews

     Reseller:

     Retention:

Up to 1,500 days

     Block Accounts:

Yes

     Servers in:

EU

     Takedowns:

NTD

Usenet Tree: A Visual Map of Backbones

Here’s a very cool table showing Usenet Providers and Backbones. It’s a little out of date but still fairly accurate.

Usenet provider map with tree showing backbones

Full-size version (zoom in / pinch to read the fine details). Courtesy of TobiDax under CCA4.0


Usenet Providers with Multiple Backbones

In recent years, we’ve seen a new trend in the Usenet world. While the majority of providers are consolidated onto just a handful of backbones, there have also been a few providers who have connected themselves to multiple backbones.

Usually they have a backbone with shorter retention which grabs any files it can get. But if it fails or just needs to get something older, it can then use its second (or even third) backbone to grab it.

It’s a lot like setting up your NZB downloader with multiple providers. Only this is a bit easier and a lot cheaper, since you’re getting all of these backbones on a single subscription (or block).

Here’s a list of the providers that currently offer multiple backbones:

Frugal Usenet: Newshosting (HW)+ Usenet.Farm + BlockNews (HW)

Frugal’s main backbone is a lower-retention version of Highwinds Media via Newshosting, but they also offer a higher-retention Highwinds block from BlockNews with some plans. 
 

NewsDemon: Independent + UsenetExpress

NewsDemon currently has its own very low-retention backbone, but it gets most of its retention from the UsenetExpress backbone. 
 

NewsgroupDirect: Independent + UsenetExpress + Supernews + Usenet.Farm

NGD also has an independent backbone supplemented by UsenetExpress. But its “Triple Play” plan also includes access to the Giganews backbone (via Supernews) and the Usenet.Farm backbone.
 

MaximumUsenet: NewsgroupDirect + UsenetExpress

MaximumUsenet is now on the NGD backbone, supplemented by UsenetExpress. 


Which Usenet Backbone Should I Use?

So, which backbone is the best for you?

A good setup is to get an unlimited account with a provider on one of the high-retention Omicron backbones.

So, if you’re in the US, NewsHosting or Usenet Server from Highwinds Media are your best gets for an unlimited account. While European users will be best served by Eweka or TweakNews.

From there, most Usenet veterans also like to get a backup block account. Why? Because it helps them pick up content that their primary provider might miss, often due to take-downs. Plus, there’s no penalty if you don’t use the block plan much, since you’ve already paid an upfront fee for a set amount of data and can take as long as you want to use it all up.

Read more about the best unlimited and block account combinations for maximizing your download completions.

But the bottom line is this: Paying for accounts with two Usenet providers on the same backbone (say, for example, Newshosting and NewsgroupNinja) is a waste of money.

And always make sure your main vs block accounts use different backbones, and preferably different takedown protocols too (DMCA vs. NTD).

So, for your block account needs, ViperNews and Usenet.Farm are great if your main account is through Newshosting or another Highwinds provider. Blocks on the UsenetExpress backbone good options too, especially if your main account is through Eweka or TweakNews.


Wrap Up

Usenet backbones (and providers) are changing all the time.

Retention keeps increasing, block accounts get cheaper, and occasionally a new Usenet backbone provider comes along. And of course, there’s the steady ebb and flow of Usenet provider acquisitions in the market which has consolidated dozens of providers onto a few backbones, eliminating backbones like Astraweb in the process.

But hopefully you now have a pretty good idea of the options that are out there – and which ones are right for you.

Are there any backbones we missed? Did something change since we posted this? Let us know in the comments!

August 2, 2022

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