Douglas Bagnall on 21 Feb 2001 14:33:31 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Usenet archives sold

Deja sold a set of disks, as one sells a secondhand book -- it wasn't 
necessary to claim copyright over anything. 


As I recall, until June, usenet articles at would regularly 
appear in Google searches. Like all Google findings, they were cached. 
That means, in June 2000, Google *already* had an essentially complete 
copy of the Deja archive, just as they still have a nearly up-to-date 
(& commercially used) Nettime archive. Which suggests that they either 
thought slowly, or bought the archive to prevent someone else from 
doing so. 


Deja did not "make money out of public information" -- it lost 
millions, every year. That they abandoned the archive a few months ago 
is indicative: they really thought they'd loose less doing price 

Deja had a nice trajectory. It took money from the wealthy, sprayed it 
wheresoever, and left as primary artifact an enormous, unique-in-
history, completely useless record of self-cataloging conversation. For 
other companies, Deja performed a one-man cautionary play, a counter-
example, demonstrating how pointless it is to store and serve usenet-as-


When Deja gave up usenet exploitation in June, Felix Stalder wrote:

> I'm not sure if it is such a bad thing that the usenet archives are
> gone, or, which amounts to the same,  that it is necessarily a great
> thing to archive EVERYTHING. Certain things are meant to be transitory
> and their specific value stems from the fact that they disappear after a
> while. If you have to consider that every post will be available to
> everyone *effortlessly* for eternity, then that certainly has a chilling
> effect on freedom of speech through self-censorship. Personally, I saw
> DejaNews more as an invasion of privacy than great service.
> Forgetting can be a virtue and no systematic archiving that makes it
> impossible, or at least hard, to construct detailed personal histories
> of discussions, can be preferable to having to arm oneself with layers
> of anonymity or pseudonymity to achieve the same thing.

which is perfect. Nevertheless, the archive, having been made, now a 
past event, is a good thing. In time, the year 1995 will be known from 
an arbitrary jumble of clues and legends. If the Deja collection is 
there as clue rather than legend, 1995 will appear more intensely, more 
varied, more unsettled, more itself. I think that's good.


The forces of preservation and destruction are not perfectly haphazard. 
The WSJ & the Guardian are being projected forward forever by a global 
system of bombproof fortress-libraries (propaganda about the past, in 
advance), while the usenet archive bounces from place to place, kept 
deliberately scarce under hidden conditions according to unannounced 
plans. Artifacts that survive in wild conditions are subject to the 
vagaries of each intervening moment. How great it would be if over the 
years the collection is subjected to censorship, trimming, 
reclassification, de-flaming, spellchecking, in order to improve its 
status as a "resource". 


I would like to compare the collection to a cursed diamond.


People who want a copy of the archive could do what Google did the 
first time: point a spider at and gather it piece by 
piece. When, that is, Google gets its software together and allows 
browsing of the usenet tree (they promise it). 


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: