1981: B News & Rapid Expansion
Giganews Usenet History > 1981: B News & Rapid Expansion
B News was written by Mark Horton, then a graduate student at Cal Berkeley, and Matt Glickman, a high school student. Horton identified and conceived of solutions for the limitations of A News, but had limited time to create a working program. Glickman was on spring break at the time and wanted to occupy his time with a computer project, which led to his consulting with Mark Horton. The first B News code was written by Glickman and formally announced at the Usenix conference in winter of 1982.
A News was designed with the notion that users could read all of the content on Usenet in one sitting. The explosive popularity of Usenet quickly put that to rest, and major changes to the news software were necessary. Some of the critical changes introduced with B News included an all-new article format, modifications to article storage, an article expiration function, and a history database for individual readers on a Usenet site. These modifications allowed users to subscribe to specific newsgroups, retain articles for a specific amount of time, skip unwanted articles, track previously read articles, and resume sessions from the last article read.
Prior to B News, Mark Horton also facilitated one of the most important non-technical achievements for Usenet. The UC-Berkeley campus was an official Arpanet node, so when Horton joined the Usenet network he began forwarding Arpanet mailing lists to Usenet newsgroups. This move greatly enhanced Usenet’s visibility and further enticed administrators to join the network.
Development of B News was passed on to Rick Adams in 1983. Critical additions Adams made to B News included support for control messages to automate newsgroup and article management, and early support for moderated newsgroups.
Like Mark Horton, Rick Adams’ contribution to Usenet went beyond B News. Non-Arpanet Usenet sites exchanged data by dialing one another at regular intervals, an expensive process which was paid for mostly by honest cooperation. Adams envisioned providing Usenet feeds commercially to ease the burden placed on large-scale Usenet sites. In 1987, Adams received a loan from the Usenix organization and founded UUNET as a non-profit company. UUNET proved extremely successful, allowing Adams to pay back the loan from Usenix and shed UUNET’s non-profit status within two years. UUNET would eventually become much more than a Usenet provider. In the early 1990s UUNET began offering commercial access to a privately-owned IP backbone, making it one of the very first ISPs. Today, UUNET remains one of the top-tier internet networks.
Rick Adams maintained B News until 1989, when he officially declared the software obsolete. Enthusiasts would continue modifying B News for a few years, but the software was swiftly superseded by C News and the rise of NNTP.