Google Killed The Usenet Newsgroups?
With apologies to the Buggles—their not-so prophetic hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" was big in the 80s—it appears that Google may be looking to usurp or outright replace newsgroups.
Recently, Google launched a beta version of its Groups utility (groups-beta. google.com; accessible from the Google home page) that searches across the Usenet just like it has always done. But in this new iteration, users can create new public groups indigenous to Google and altogether separate from Usenet.
Google's approach raises some interesting questions about its intentions and the future of the newsgroups.
Will Google really make this better? Currently, the new Google Groups system adds abilities to create lists of favorite groups, bookmark preferred topics or posts, search the content of both the traditional newsgroups and the new Google Groups, and more. Most of the improvements Google has introduced are administrative. But as you should know, the things that make a forum valuable (especially one for machining professionals) are how well it's attended, the quality of the posts and how well-known and trusted the forum is. How well this system will perform here is anybody's guess.
Will Google's groups ultimately help manufacturing and metalworking? According to Google, anyone can create a "group or community" around any topic. Opening up the capability to create more groups will naturally "dilute" the collection of newsgroups, and that's not necessarily a good thing—especially for technical topics such as those serving technically-focused professionals like you. I mean, what good does having 11 topics dedicated to a single topic really do?
An old saying still holds true: "The Internet routes around trouble." If Google Groups aren't perceived as valuable, folks just won't use ‘em. But even if they don't succeed, think of the "Internet junk" it will leave in its wake. Google may not "kill" the newsgroups, but it's likely to make things really messy before this all shakes out.
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