Founded in 1995, Easynews is an interesting Usenet service which comes with a very unusual feature. It allows you to search, download and unpack newsgroup files direct from your favorite browser.
This has some important benefits. You don't have to find, install and set up a news client, for instance. And you're able to access the service from all your devices using exactly the same interface, making it much simpler and more convenient to use.
Although the web interface can't match the best clients, it's smarter than you might think. An Easy Assembler component makes it straightforward to download multi-part assemblies, for instance, automatically fetching, organizing and decompressing them for you.
This functionality doesn't come cheap. The $9.98 (£8) a month Classic Plan has a web retention of only 365 days and a monthly transfer limit of 20GB. That compares poorly with UsenetServer, which gives you unlimited access for a monthly $7.95 (£6.36).
Upgrading to another plan will get you more power, but still at a steep price. The top-of-the-range Big Gig Plan gives you 150GB of web data transfer and 2,950 days retention via the web interface, unlimited data and 3,364 days retention via NNTP. You get up to 60 connections, a bundled VPN, and assorted extras including a 12GB 'loyalty' bonus that you'll receive every year when you renew your subscription. That's a decent specification, but we'd expect nothing less for an eye-watering $29.94 (£24) a month.
Easynews isn't for bargain hunters, then, but the web interface could still be appealing to many. If you're tempted, the company has a 14-day 10GB free trial to help you see how the service works.
The page starts with a summary of its most important points, including these:
- We will not send you unsolicited email.
- We will not sell, rent, or trade your information to any third party.
- We do not keep HTTP logs.
- We do not keep NNTP logs.
Other companies regularly use thousands more words while somehow giving you much less information.
The policy goes on to explain what data is collected when you sign up or browse the website, and how and when the company might contact you. These sections are lengthier, but still clearly written and with none of the legal jargon you'll see elsewhere.
There's a familiar section about 'Legal and Law Enforcement Cooperation', which states that: "Easynews reserves the right to disclose collected information as required by law... such as in complying with a court order." As with other Usenet providers, if someone's pursuing you because you've downloaded something dubious, your information may be handed over.
Easynews offers some protection with its SSL support, encrypting your connections to make it more difficult for others to monitor your actions.
Buy a plan with a VPN – or add it for $2.99 (£2.40) a month – and you'll get an extra layer of anonymity, with the ability to choose a new virtual location from any of 21 countries around the world.
Easynews' pricing scheme is a little complicated, but the signup screen does its best to explain exactly what you're getting, listing all the core features and giving you options to extend the lesser plans with add-ons. If the baseline 365 days of web retention isn't enough, for instance, you can extend it to 2,951 days for only $2.99 (£2.40) a month.
We opted for the do-everything Big Gig Plan, handing over our email address and payment details (only PayPal and cards are supported). There were no surprises or complications, the process was completed within moments, and a few seconds later a helpful welcome email arrived with setup information and support links.
We started by logging in to the Easynews web interface. This opened with a very simple search box which allowed us to look for videos, audio, images or archive files by keyword.
We ran a video search and got a list of matches, complete with thumbnails where available. You don't have to worry about multi-part binaries as the program handles them automatically. All you see are the individual video files and their key details: post date, size, resolution, run time, and so on.
A turbocharged 'Advanced Search' box gives you vastly more control. You can search by subject, newsgroup, poster, file name, extension, even video and audio codec. Results can be processed to remove duplicates or other unwanted files, then sorted in multiple ways.
However you search, downloading can be as easy as clicking the file title. There's nothing else to decide, not even a 'Save As' dialog – your browser just starts the download as usual.
There's an unusual extra in the form of the Zip Manager. This allows you to send multiple files into a queue, and have them compressed into a single archive when you're done. It's not going to be useful to everyone, but might help if you're searching for multiple small files on a single topic and want to keep them all together.
Overall it's an impressive interface, and indeed it’s better than some native news clients. If you're interested in this web-based approach, check out a simple demo of the search page here.
You can set up and access Easynews via standard news clients, too. We configured Usenet Wire and Grabit and both performed well, reaching 40Mbps download speeds with only five connections. With 60 available, that leaves plenty of room to max out most internet connections.
Finally, we tried to set up the Easynews VPN. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult as the installer repeatedly failed. The reason wasn't clear, though, so we're not counting this as a major Easynews issue. If anything, it showed a positive side to the company, as the tech support team responded to our initial request within minutes.
Once installed, we recognized the client as essentially the same app used by Newshosting, no great surprise as both Easynews and Newshosting are owned by UNS Holdings.
The client looks ugly and is short on features, but at least it seemed easy enough to use. A list of locations is sortable by country, city, server or response times; you can choose your preferred protocol (OpenVPN UDP or TCP, L2TP or PPTP) from the same screen, then connect in a couple of clicks.
While the client has its issues, we had no complaints about its peak performance. Our nearest UK server managed 35Mbps and more, and switching to Denmark and Netherlands still gave us more than 30Mbps. US connections were relatively disappointing during testing, peaking at 15Mbps, and Asian locations struggled to reach 5Mbps. Still, if you're more interested in getting a new IP than exactly where it's located, Easynews should deliver all the power you need.
Easynews really does live up to its name, with a simple yet powerful interface that works well on all your devices. It could be an ideal service for newsgroup novices with light downloading needs, but go beyond the 20GB monthly allowance or 365-day retention and it can get expensive.