Usenet newsgroups are Internet discussion groups on just about any topic you can imagine. There are more than 50,000 newsgroups, which additional groups being added daily. Newsgroups were one of the first ways that students and scientists (using ARPANet, an early version of the Internet) could share their opinions, interests and hobbies online.

As the number of newsgroups began to expand, the Internet administrators grouped all newsgroups together to form a hierarchy known as Usenet. To begin with Usnet and the newsgroups were just text based communities (7-bit ASCII). It took the creation of HTTP (hypertext transport protocol - changed the way computers transmit and recieve information) to expand upon the text based system.

However, Usenet is, by nature, still primarily a text-based system. Binary posts, which includes files such as movies, pictures, music files, and software programs can be shared. But, Usenet tends to restict binary posts to selected newsgroups. Illegal binary posts have caused legel issues, when users have shared files such as copyrighted material.

  • How to post and read on Newsgroups
    • To post and read on newsgroups you need a news reader program. A news reader program allows you to collect articles from newsgroups, display them, in subject and date order for you to read. It will also allow you to send posts to a newsgroup as well. Below is a list of news reader programs you could use,

      • Newsgroup Commander - Easy to use news reader program where you select COMMUNICATOR from the tool bar, and choose the option NEWSGROUPS from the submenu.
      • Outlook Express - Email program that also allows you to access Usenet. Select TOOLS from the tool bar, and choose the Option ACCOUNTS from the submenu.
      • Also check this address for some of the best news reader programs available - news reader programs.
      • The help file that comes with your news reader program should explain how to download posts from a newsgroup to read, how to subscribe / unsubscribe to a particular newsgroup and how to read and post on a newsgroup with that particular news reader program.
  • Types of Newsgroups
    • Newsgroups are listed in a hierarchy that goes back to the early 1980's. The different types of newsgroups are shown by a extension, an example of some of the different types of extensions and meanings are below (for Google newsgroups)

      • alt. - Any conceivable topic.
      • biz. - Business products, services, reviews
      • comp. - Hardware, software, consumer info
      • humanities. - Fine art, literature, philosophy
      • misc. - Employment, health, and much more
      • news. - Info about Usenet News
      • rec. - Games, hobbies, sports
      • sci. - Applied science, social science
      • soc. - Social issues, culture
      • talk. - Current issues and debates
  • Newsgroup Netiquette
    • When posting on newsgroups you should try to follow a few basic guidelines, often referred to as "Newsgroup Netiquette", below is a list of some of these guidelines,

      • Signatures - provide information about how to get in touch with the person posting the article, including their email address, phone number, address, or where they're located.
      • Posting Emails - posting private email messages on newsgroups is seen as bad taste.
      • Test Messages - if you are new to posting, its a good idea to post a "test" message.
      • Hoaxes - you should take posts with a pinch of salt if they are meant to be about or from a celebrity or famous person.
      • Summaries - if somebody posts a summery you should respond by email rather than post a reply because this defeats the intention of the author.
      • Responding to posts - avoid trying to tedious when pick apart an article, address it in parts or as a whole not word by word.
      • Spelling and Grammar - if your spelling and grammar is poor you should check your post with a dictionary or spell checker first.
      • Subject Lines - makes sure it describes your post.
      • Racism - avoid any posts that are abusive.
  • Newsgroup Spam
    • Spam is when someone sends the same message to a large amount of newsgroups. Spam can be reported by going to web sites such as,

      It is not a good idea to try and personally email someone who has spammed a newsgroup because the email address may be fake and may result in your email address being spammed.

Below is the homepage of Usenet, which is the central location of newsgroup information.

  • Usnet - homepage of Usenet
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