Usenet groups were the internet's first social media, with a range of specialized groups for discussing particular interests, similar to how trending hashtags now work on Twitter. However, over past couple of decades while Usenet groups have become less of a focus for internet users they still remain very active.
The problem is, Usenet groups are so huge and so widespread now that it's difficult not only to track messages in them, but also to search for the information you're looking for in them.
Luckily, NZB indexing websites provide an easy way to search for information buried in newsgroups, by apply NZB file formats, which are similar to XML files. Some will simply highlight posts where such information is mentioned, but other NZB clients allow you to download and monitor Usenet group posts directly.
However, do expect at the very least to have to register an account on sites that will provide the most information. Additionally, do be aware that some providers charge a monthly fee for access to the information you need to search through.
Here therefore are the best in NZB indexing websites.
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Quality indexing from a professional site
Nzbplanet is a well-designed website which is constantly indexing the latest Usenet NZBs.
Registration was public at the time of writing, but apparently the site will be going invite-only very soon. If you can get in before the door closes, signing up will give you a free account which allows five downloads a day and 200 days retention, but no API hits.
Nzbplanet bears a strong resemblance to many torrent sites. Lists of ‘Top downloads for the last 24 hours’ show you what's available in audio, video or other categories. You can browse individual categories and filter them by attributes like title, year and genre. Select the NZBs you need – up to a maximum of five, anyway, for the free plan – and you can download them in a couple of clicks.
This worked well for us, but heavy newsgroup users might want to upgrade to one of the more powerful commercial plans.
The £8 ($11.20) a year VIP plan gives you 2,500 days retention, unlimited downloads, a file password checker, NZB queuing, access to a VIP-only forum, and more.
The £15 ($21) a year Platinum plan extends your VIP account with 20,000 API hits, or a one-off £50 ($70) gets you a lifetime membership.
Simple, free and easy Usenet searching
NZBIndex is a free and easy-to-use web-based Usenet search engine based in the Netherlands.
The interface looks much like every other web search tool you've ever used. Enter a keyword, click Search, and NZBIndex scans 888 popular newsgroups, speedily returning matching NZBs.
An Advanced Search screen has a strong set of search filters. You can select files by age, size, poster, or whether they have an NFO file. You're also able to search in specific groups only, and there are options to hide incomplete uploads or suspected spam. (The site doesn't share any details on its spam detection methods, but you can always turn this off if it causes problems.)
Heading off to the Groups area displays a list of the indexed groups, along with some useful stats: the number of collections in a group, the time it was last indexed (usually within the last few minutes, at least it was when we checked), current retention per group (typically around 1,900 days) and the total size of the scanned files.
Clicking any group displays its contents in the same format returned by a standard search, and you can browse and download its files in just the same way.
It's all very straightforward, and even newsgroup beginners will be finding their way around the site in just a few minutes.
Professional Usenet support for everyone (not just geeks)
NZBGeek is a popular NZB indexing website with a busy forum-based community.
The site doesn't exactly boast about its features – when we first arrived, all we saw was a signup form – but register for free and you're able to look around.
The NZBGeek interface has a lot of visual appeal. The front page of the website has thumbnails highlighting the top 10 files from the last 24 hours, or you can drill down to various audio, video and other categories for a more detailed view.
An unusually powerful search tool called GeekSeek gives you all kinds of filters and settings. As well as the regular keyword searching, you can set keywords to ignore, and define details like the file size, poster, resolution, language, and the minimum number of downloads so far.
Selecting any individual file displays a considerable amount of detail with links to related websites, an RSS feed and more.
A strong focus on community starts with a live chat option at the top of the front page, and there's also a forum where you can ask for help and discuss issues.
We weren't able to download any NZBs immediately, but this was easy to fix. A 14-day trial gives immediate and full access to the site, and after that you have plenty of options available.
A 6-month membership costs $6 (£4.30), while paying $12 (£8.60) gets you a year. A two-year plan costs $18 (£12.90) or you can pick up a lifetime membership for $30 (£21.50). NZB indexers have a rather uncertain existence and in theory a site could disappear at any time, but NZBGeek has been around since 2012, so you might feel the lifetime plan is worth the gamble.
Browse the latest Usenet content for free
NZBFinder.ws is a likeable nZEDb-powered Usenet indexing website based in the EU.
Registration is quick and easy, and once logged in you're able to browse the latest downloads in a small number of audio and video categories.
Select a file and you're presented with a wide range of important details. Many of these cover the contents of the file – title, genre, year, links to trailers or sites like IMDB – but there's also useful information on the download itself. That includes the size, completion, the groups where it was posted, the poster's name, and the contents of the destination file (an ISO, a media file, or something else).
You can also browse groups individually, or use NZBFinder's Search tool. This isn't as powerful as the site claims, but it covers the basics, with options to locate files by release, file or the original Usenet name, age, group, category and size.
Results are variable. The site ‘only’ indexes around 330 groups, but smart deobfuscation helps to more reliably identify content, and there's a claimed "8+ year backlog of NZBs" to work with.
You can get started immediately with NZBFinder's relatively generous free plan, which includes five downloads and 25 API hits a day.
Paying €10 (£8.90, $12.30) a year gets you Basic membership with unlimited downloads and 5,000 API hits. Upgrading to the Pro plan for €20 (£17.80, $24.60) gets you 20,000 API hits, while the Elite plan costs €35 (£31, $43) and supports unlimited API access and throws in Spotweb, a Spotnet-based indexing system.
A capable Newznab-powered indexer
NZB.su is a Newznab-based NZB indexing website and API search service. Registration is open to everyone. We signed up without difficulty, and moments later were scrolling through a forum-like view of the latest downloads.
This opening interface is text-heavy and rather dull, with no graphics beyond a tiny website logo on the toolbar. NZB.su didn't impress us with its deobfuscation abilities, either – more than half the file names we saw on the opening page were along the lines of 'XvickMbTIm3lzohJqJPkpChPdvI'.
Fortunately, you don't have to live with this default view. Menu options allow drilling down to whatever audio, video or other media content you need, and an optional Covers view displays thumbnails, summaries, IMDB or TRAKT information and more. There's also a small amount of information about the file – size, the number of files, the poster, the source group – although not as much as you'll sometimes see elsewhere.
There were a few issues. When we tried the site, only basic keyword searching was available, for instance – there is an Advanced Search feature, but it wasn't accessible for us. Was this some limitation of the free account? NZB.su doesn't make it clear what you get, so it's hard to say.
Still, our test searches returned plenty of hits, and we were able to download several files for free (the limit seems to be five a day on the free account).
Opting for a paid account gets you 600 downloads and 5,000 API queries a day, and what NZB.su calls a "better website experience", which essentially means the kind of features you'll get elsewhere for free: top downloads lists, more images, previews and so on.
Handing over $4 (£2.90) gets you access to the full service for 30 days, or paying $14 (£10) covers you for a year. Credit card and Bitcoin payments are supported now, and as we write, Bitcash is accepted manually (the latter will also be automated once it’s supported by Bitpay).
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