Microsoft newsgroups made their debut in April 1996, replacing the discussion forums on CompuServe. Over the years, these groups were used by millions of people to communicate with each other about computers, software and issues. At last count, the company had 2,000 public newsgroups and another 2,200 private groups focused on specific communities such as partners or its MVP (Most Valued Professional) program. However, this style of communication has its own set of problems which Microsoft feels are detrimental to giving their users the best possible experience.
“Newsgroups run on an outdated and discontinued platform that is no longer supported, making them vulnerable to spam and other usability issues,” Microsoft said in a statement. The company said that its forums get 15 million visits a month and have been growing, on average, 12 percent each month. By contrast, it said that participation in newsgroups has dropped nearly in half over the past year. Not only are the newsgroups a hotbed for spam, they often leave users feeling as though their conversations are fragmented. The style and setup leaves a lot to be desired.
Beginning this month, Microsoft will begin phasing out newsgroups, beginning with the least-used ones. The company will post announcements prior to the removal of information and threads, though, so that you can prepare yourself. In the meantime, you are encouraged to make a local backup of any newsgroup that you feel has useful content. During the transition, Microsoft will provide links in each newsgroup which points towards the best possible forum alternative for that particular type of discussion. This should help the newsgroupies be able to find each other – and their proper place within the community – much easier.
This move adds substantial benefits for the community as a whole. On Microsoft Answers, for instance, you’ll find that all of the content is now searchable. This negates the need for multiple postings about the same issue. Content will be easier to find and index for future use. There are also advanced moderating capabilities, meaning the teams and leads can help nip spam and trolls in the bud before they get out of control. The team feels that forums-based communications offer better user management platforms, and give people an overall healthy discussion space.
Are you still a newsgroup user? What are your thoughts about this announcement? I have a feeling there will be many die-hard fans who are not going to be happy with this decision. I have to agree that it’s a good call, and makes perfect sense. The old style became a nightmare to navigate years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team in Redmond will use this change to communicate more with the consumers.