this blog may be a little out of date by now.. but I was thinking about this a few weeks ago.
I was thinking about how the internet has changed in the last 20 years. My first contact with it was in school, with usenet and mail. At that time usenet/net news was the main source of information. The discussions were informative, and often included key figures in the field (at least for the computer groups).
The advent of the www didn't change this at first, but some sites like the Sun Developers Network moved discussion groups within the web site boundaries. This started to split the places you needed to search for information.
The next change came around the time that AOL offered internet access (around 1996). The vast numbers of new users flooded the newsgroups. The quality of the discussions declined, and the somewhat elite culture was lost. For several years beyond that I occasionally read news, but I'd stopped posting. But it remained a useful source of particular information (specific problems, specific solutions).
The final change was the purchase of the internet archive by Google. This placed an effective web interface on archived and current news content, removing the need for a news client. And a year ago Comcast stopped providing newsgroups. At this point I no longer have direct access.
What started these thoughts was thinking about twitter and blogs. In a sense they recreate, in a controlled fashion, some of the capabilities of usenet. Netnews provides is a threaded discussion, like following the comments to a blog. Like blogging, posting to a newsgroup was easy to do, though more limited in format. Blogging with discussion is a simpler threaded model than newsgroups. Most newsreaders allow filtering by subject, poster, date, etc. This is only partly equalled by web search and browser history with respect to blogs. Though newsgroups are essentially subject based, the way interests are linked is like followers in twitter.
I am not trying to say nothing is new. What I am interested in are some fundamental differences. NNTP is essentially free, uncontrolled, and decentrallized. Twitter, Typepad, and Facebook are the opposite, though they have developed ecosystems around published APIs.
The point of this article? When I look at the new social web I find it challenging and different, but something tugs at a sense of deja vu - though perhaps partly it is this sense of newness.
What makes this post seem out of date is the announcement by Google over Wave Which partly addresses the centrallized and free points above.