While the newsgroup system has been running for years, in some ways it was the original Newzbin site that put Usenet binary downloading on the map of the masses.
The site created the NZB format, in basic terms .torrent files for newsgroups, which massively simplified the downloading of files from Usenet. This new-found ease of use attracted many to the previously difficult and inaccessible system and helped to kick-start a wave of Usenet indexing sites.
The subsequent popularity of Newzbin was not appreciated by the MPA, who sued the site’s operators. The action proved ruinous and in May 2010 left the site with debts of anywhere between £500K and £700K, depending on whose estimates you believe.
But through all the misery came a ray of light for the site’s former users. Newzbin was to be resurrected by a team of hackers called Team R Dogs, of which Mr White was the most public-facing.
Although the site did come back as Newzbin2, things were not going to be easy. The MPA, who were stinging that the site they had killed had somehow reanimated, began legal action to have the site blocked at the ISP level in the UK.
After much wrangling, October 26 2011 Justice Arnold at the High Court handed down a written judgment to BT, one of the UK’s largest Internet service providers. It ordered the company to block subscriber access to Newzbin2 within two weeks.
Newzbin2 responded with an encrypted software client to circumvent the ban which did go some way to getting users back on the site, but the MPA still weren’t done and continued pressing for more ISP blocks.
In the end, all of the UK’s major Internet providers were blocking the site and with the growing threat of domain seizure, Newzbin2 took the decision to switch to a Spanish .es domain.
For months now the site has continued, albeit in a more subdued fashion, but behind the scenes things have not been running to plan.
“Our servers have been unstable and crashing on a regular basis meaning the NZBs & NFOs are unavailable for long periods and we don’t have the money to replace them,” the site said in a closure statement a few hours ago.
In addition to its computing power, Newzbin2 and its predecessor have always relied on human beings to find interesting files on Usenet and bring them to the attention of the site’s users. But perhaps understandably, the adverse news surrounding the site has driven these people away. After all, who wants to become shooting practice for the MPA?
When TorrentFreak spoke with Mr White after Team R Dogs first took over the site, he made something very clear to us – his team were reviving Newzbin, not for the fun of it, but for the money. But now, more than two years later, it appears that particular plan won’t come to fruition.
“The figures just don’t stack up. Newzbin1 was said to have had 700,000 registered users. In fact that was the total number of people who ever signed up in the history of Newzbin from 2000 onwards & only a fraction were active, loads of people dropped out & went to other sites,” Team R Dogs reveal.
“We reckon they had about 100,000 users and of those only a few 10’s of thousands paid premium topups. That still made good money for the Newzbin1 guys. We don’t have much more than about 40,000 active users and the number of premium users is in the small thousands. It costs much more to run than we bring in, it just doesn’t stack up,” they add.
Team R Dogs also say that bringing back Newzbin after it was taken down didn’t sit well with the conspiracy theorists who spread the rumor that the site was an MPA trap.
“That stung us bad and we never got the userbase back,” they say.
And the money woes don’t stop there. We’ve reported recently how all kinds of file-sharing sites and services have been experiencing problems with PayPal and other forms of payment processing, and apparently Newzbin2 have had extreme difficulties too. All of their payment providers have withdrawn their services and the site now reveals that there was also a fresh legal attack.
“The MPA sued Paypal and are going at our innocent payment provider Kthxbai Ltd in the UK. Our other payment provider has understandably lost their nerve. Result? We have no more payment providers to offer & no realistic means of taking money – no, Bitcoin isn’t credible as it’s just too hard for 90% of people,” Team R Dogs conclude.
In its farewell speech the site protests that it was always 100% DMCA compliant and has taken down content when asked to, but none of that would have been good enough for the MPA. They have spent a huge amount of money on both the current site and its predecessor and it was never likely they were simply going to forget about it.