I had a dream last night about how easy it would be to use any number of great Usenet clients as a the basis of a Web interface for a new discussion service that would be a “Twitter Killer.” Some of these clients, especially the ones you had to pay for, were really, really good. They were feature rich and fun to use and got the job done. Figure out a way to integrate IRC concepts into the interface and you have the makings of something really, really cool.
Of course, you’d have to update the experience some simply because people have Twitter, Usenet and Reddit as a frame of reference. But the general concepts you would use for such a service are extremely powerful and useful in today’s world.
One of the reasons why it took me years to use Twitter is I was so used to Usenet’s interface that I didn’t get what the big deal was about. Even now, I struggle to understand how anyone would use Twitter instead of Usenet and the answer is, of course: they don’t know Usenet even ever existed.
Usenet was not perfect and any service you designed would have to be designed from the ground up to address some modern needs. You would have to be able to integrate advertising seamlessly and you would have to address some basic issues that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago when Usenet and IRC were popular.
One issue I think would be interesting to address is newsgroup — or whatever you called them — creation. In my imagination, you would give verified account holders exclusive ability to create new newsgroups. You would give them other privileges, but not too many simply because you wouldn’t want to burden them with administration duties. Yet I think a lot of thought leaders would get off on the notion they had more power than just the average user. Now, of course, being a verified account holder would come at a price: you’d have to use your real name.
Another issue that would have to be addressed is cross posting. Cross-posting spam was a real issue with Usenet and I think simply wouldn’t give people the power to cross post at all. Or maybe just give it to verified account holders within those groups they had created.
Once you assume you’re going to use Usenet and IRC concepts as the basis of a Twitter Killer, there are so many intriguing, interesting tweaks you would be able to implement. Because Usenet was based on the notion of threaded entire-page posts, you could do some interesting things with content providers. They could shoot out their articles — in full — into the system and then people could quote the content directly through inline editing. The content providers make money because the ads associated with the content would still be associated with it. Done properly, this service I imagine could not only revolutionize content online, but, in a sense, bring back blogging from the dead.
Another interesting twist to the old Usenet concept is directly integrating IRC concepts into it as well. This is a little bit more fuzzy, but somehow you would make it so you would be able to enjoy now only the experience of old AOL Chat rooms but the old Usenet experience as well with the same service. So, it would be something like, you would have a public chat associated with each new newsgroup. Or something.
Additionally, something that would be really cool is what you might be able to do with profile pages with this service. If you had a way of cutting through the enormous amount of discussion such a service would generate by linking what you contributed to the service to your profile page, that might be really popular. Of course, you would have the usual Trending topics as well.
I also really like the idea of one-click recorded video-conferencing being associated with this as well. It would be cool if you could have a text chat with someone, then hit a button and start a recorded public video chat that would be associated with a post. Maybe only verified account holders could do this, but I think, in general this is a pretty strong concept.
Now, I don’t expect any of this to happen. I have no money, can’t code and don’t want to learn. But I use Twitter so much and miss Usenet so much that I keep thinking about this concept over and over again. I keep thinking of different interesting use-cases. I have posted an enormous amount of Instagram videos on this subject and the only reason why I don’t do it again is I have started to use my Instagram account for pictures more than anything else.