Following the shutdown of Newzbin2 a couple of weeks earlier, last week witnessed what many believe to be another significant nail in the Usenet indexing coffin.
NZBMatrix, one of the web’s most popular NZB sites, closed its doors after coming to the realization that continuing its activities would be more problematic than simply shutting down.
Here at TorrentFreak we’re used to an active inbox when sites go offline, but we were ill-prepared for what happened last Sunday. Dozens of emails from disappointed NZBMatrix fans flooded in after the closure of the site, eclipsing anything we’ve witnessed in recent times.
While plenty of people invested time in the site, TorrentFreak has been chatting this week with someone who contributed quite a bit more than the average user. He is the video encoder with MacGuffin, a group that released around 600 movies on Usenet and NZBMatrix. From its beginnings under a different name in 2000, MacGuffin ended up with five releases in NZBMarix’s top ten most popular BRrips of all time.
But despite releasing hundreds of movies, MacGuffin says that NZBMatrix was about more than just downloads, it was a thriving community where friendships were born and nurtured. That has now been torn apart.
“Sadness can be manifested in many ways. Some people cry, some get angry and some just let go of something they’ve lost that once helped define them. The latter is usually the case when hearts get broken, when relationships end, when people that we love pass away and when we lose something or someone we cherish,” MacGuffin explains.
“Right now the Usenet community is in mourning. NZBMatrix wasn’t just a pirate’s lair – actually it wasn’t that at all. The Matrix was my second family, as it was for many others.”
MacGuffin says he joined NZBMatrix in 2006, just after Giganews, one of the Internet’s largest Usenet providers, announced it was boosting retention (the amount of time uploaded data remains on their servers) to 60 days. To show just how far Usenet has come, today Giganews retains 1593 days worth of binary data.
“Usenet in 2006 was not at all what it is today. At the time it catered mostly for non-English speakers since it was a very popular way of sharing content in countries such as Holland, Sweden and Germany. At that time torrents was still the way to go for English content,” MacGuffin recalls.
“But in 2007 or so the US and UK began to follow suit, with posted content growing rapidly, and it didn’t take long for Usenet to become a good source of content for English-speaking users.”
NZBMatrix rode on the back of this boom and developed along with the changing face of Usenet during the next six years, continuing with their mission to index everything posted on Usenet via an automated process and to keep the forums going.
MacGuffin recalls that in 2010 NZBMatrix received a big boost. Action by the MPAA, BREIN and other anti-piracy groups was increasingly driving users to safer ways of sharing files. Usenet’s reputation of being the safest way of all led to huge influx of new users, not just to NZBMatrix but to newsgroups in general.
As a result, providers started boosting their retention and Usenet began to compete with BitTorrent for content longevity. Despite the cost disadvantage, users flooded to Usenet. The long touted “do not talk about Usenet” was all but dead and with that came the inevitable – increased attention from copyright holders.
In the years that followed more and more Usenet indexing sites became of interest to anti-piracy groups, particularly the MPAA. Newzbin and Newzbin2 were perhaps the most prominent targets and both eventually succumbed to the pressure. As witnessed last week, NZBMatrix could not escape that eventuality either.
In common with others who sent emails to TorrentFreak, MacGuffin says the shutdown had a big impact. However, for someone involved in hundreds of video releases, continuing with those wasn’t his first concern.
“The only thing on my mind at the time was the forum. Users that have been members for years considering the site to be their second home – way more than any sold-out and bent social networking site. That is what made me angry.”
Interestingly, MacGuffin’s thoughts on the shutdown were echoed almost perfectly in an email we received from another ex-NZBMatix user. Joining the dots, both say that the strength of the site lay in the community, and that the catch-all term of “copyright infringement” fails to adequately describe the sense of community and friendship that led to people doing whatever they could to share with each other. Even with no site, that will continue elsewhere.
“As for me and the rest I want to believe that the memory of the site will stay on. This may sound romantic or even stupid but trust me it is not. When you post congratulations to someone that just became a father and then a year later you see a picture of the child in his 1st birthday then you are no longer an anonymous user behind a keyboard. You are there, part of the joy and almost feeling proud,” MacGuffin says.
“I really don’t know if I am ever going to remove the site’s URL from my browser. The site’s logo, the blue dice, will stay.”