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A usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the Usenet
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system. It developed from the general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name.Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979 and it was established in 1980...

 system, for messages posted from many users in different locations. The term may be confusing to some, because it is usually a discussion group
Discussion group
A discussion group is an online forum for individuals to discuss various topics amongst each other. People add their comments by posting a block of text to the group. Others can then comment and respond. In the early days of the Internet, USENET was the most popular type of discussion group, but...

. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to, discussion forum
Internet forum
An Internet forum, or message board, is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. They differ from chat rooms in that messages are at least temporarily archived...

s on the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

. Newsreader
News client
A newsreader is an application program that reads articles on Usenet . Newsreaders act as clients which connect to a news server, via the Network News Transfer Protocol , to download articles and post new articles...

 software is used to read newsgroups.

Despite the advent of file-sharing technologies such as BitTorrent, as well as the increased use of blogs, formal discussion forums, and social networking sites, coupled with a growing number of service providers blocking access to Usenet (see main article), newsgroups continue to be widely used.

Types of newsgroups

Typically, the newsgroup is focused on a particular topic of interest. Some newsgroups allow the posting of messages on a wide variety of themes, regarding anything a member chooses to discuss as on-topic
In the context of mailing lists, discussion groups, discussion forums, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and wikis a contribution is off-topic if it is not within the bounds of the current discussion, and on-topic if it is....

, while others keep more strictly to their particular subject, frowning on off-topic postings. The news admin (the administrator of a news server
News server
A news server is a set of computer software used to handle Usenet articles. It may also refer to a computer itself which is primarily or solely used for handling Usenet. A reader server provides an interface to read and post articles, generally with the assistance of a news client. A transit...

) decides how long articles are kept on his server before being expired (deleted). Different servers will have different retention times for the same newsgroup; some may keep articles for as little as one or two weeks, others may hold them for many months. Some admins keep articles in local or technical newsgroups around longer than articles in other newsgroups. In searches site like Cornerstone Mararantha, lights mintriers, SDA and other of team search engines to be band off the web.

Newsgroups generally come in either of two types, binary or text. There is no technical difference between the two, but the naming differentiation allows users and servers with limited facilities to minimize network bandwidth usage. Generally, Usenet conventions and rules are enacted with the primary intention of minimizing the overall amount of network traffic and resource usage.

Newsgroups are much like the public message boards on old bulletin board system
Bulletin board system
A Bulletin Board System, or BBS, is a computer system running software that allows users to connect and log in to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, a user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging...

s. For those readers not familiar with this concept, envision an electronic version of the corkboard in the entrance of your local grocery store.

Newsgroups frequently become cliquish and are subject to sporadic flame wars and trolling, but they can also be a valuable source of information, support and friendship, bringing people who are interested in specific subjects together from around the world.

Back when the early community was the pioneering computer society, the common habit seen with many articles was a notice at the end disclosed if the author was free of, or had a conflict of interest, or had any financial motive, or axe to grind, in posting about any product or issue. This is seen much less now, and the reader must read skeptically, just like in society, besides all the privacy or phishing
Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT...


There are currently well over 100,000 Usenet newsgroups, but only 20,000 or so of those are active. Newsgroups vary in popularity, with some newsgroups only getting a few posts a month while others get several hundred (and in a few cases a couple of thousand) messages a day.

Weblogs have replaced some of the uses of newsgroups (especially because, for a while, they were less prone to spam
Spam (electronic)
Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately...


A website called Deja News began archiving
An archive is a collection of historical records, or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of an organization...

 Usenet in the mid-1990s. DejaNews also provided a searchable web interface. Google
Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program...

 bought the archive from them and made efforts to buy other Usenet archives to attempt to create a complete archive of Usenet newsgroups and postings from its early beginnings. Like DejaNews, Google has a web search interface to the archive, but Google also allows newsgroup posting.

Non-Usenet newsgroups are possible and do occur, as private individuals or organizations set up their own NNTP servers. Examples include the newsgroups Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

 runs to allow peer-to-peer support of their products and those at [news:// news://].

How newsgroups work

Newsgroup servers are hosted by various organizations and institutions. Most Internet service providers host their own news server
News server
A news server is a set of computer software used to handle Usenet articles. It may also refer to a computer itself which is primarily or solely used for handling Usenet. A reader server provides an interface to read and post articles, generally with the assistance of a news client. A transit...

s, or rent access to one, for their subscribers. There are also a number of companies who sell access to premium news servers.

Every host of a news server maintains agreements with other news servers to regularly synchronize. In this way news servers form a network. When a user posts to one news server, the message is stored locally. That server then shares the message with the servers that are connected to it if both carry the newsgroup, and from those servers to servers that they are connected to, and so on. For newsgroups that are not widely carried, sometimes a carrier group is used for crossposting
Crossposting is the act of posting the same message to multiple information channels; forums, mailing lists, or newsgroups. Crossposting is perceived as inconsiderate, poor etiquette and is banned from Usenet newsgroups and virtually all email lists...

 to aid distribution. This is typically only useful for groups that have been removed or newer alt.* groups. Crossposts between hierarchies, outside of the Big 8 and alt.* hierarchies, are failure prone.


Newsgroups are often arranged into hierarchies, theoretically making it simpler to find related groups. The term top-level hierarchy refers to the hierarchy defined by the prefix before the first dot.

The most commonly known hierarchies are the usenet hierarchies. So for instance newsgroup would be in the rec.* top-level usenet hierarchy, where the asterisk (*) is defined as a wildcard character
Wildcard character
-Telecommunication:In telecommunications, a wildcard character is a character that may be substituted for any of a defined subset of all possible characters....

. There were seven original major hierarchies of usenet newsgroups, known as the "Big 7":
  • comp.* — Discussion of computer-related topics
  • news.* — Discussion of Usenet itself
  • sci.* — Discussion of scientific subjects
  • rec.* — Discussion of recreational activities (e.g. games and hobbies)
  • soc.* — Socialising and discussion of social issues.
  • talk.* — Discussion of contentious issues such as religion and politics.
  • misc.* — Miscellaneous discussion—anything which does not fit in the other hierarchies.

These were all created in the Great Renaming
Great Renaming
The Great Renaming was a restructuring of Usenet newsgroups that took place in 1987. B News maintainer and UUNET founder Rick Adams is generally considered to be the initiator of the Renaming.-Motivation:...

 of 1986–1987, before which all of these newsgroups were in the net.* hierarchy. At that time there was a great controversy over what newsgroups should be allowed. Among those that the usenet cabal (who effectively ran the Big 7 at the time) did not allow were those concerning recipe
A recipe is a set of instructions that describe how to prepare or make something, especially a culinary dish.-Components:Modern culinary recipes normally consist of several components*The name of the dish...

s, drugs
Recreational drug use
Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

, and sex
In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety . Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents...


This situation resulted in the creation of an alt.* (short for "alternative") usenet hierarchy, under which these groups would be allowed. Over time, the laxness of rules on newsgroup creation in alt.* compared to the Big 7 meant that many new topics could, given time, gain enough popularity to get a Big 7 newsgroup. There was a rapid growth of alt.* as a result, and the trend continues to this day. Because of the anarchistic nature with which the groups sprang up, some jokingly referred to ALT standing for "Anarchists, Lunatics and Terrorists" (a backronym
A backronym or bacronym is a phrase constructed purposely, such that an acronym can be formed to a specific desired word. Backronyms may be invented with serious or humorous intent, or may be a type of false or folk etymology....


In 1995, humanities.* was created for the discussion of the humanities (e.g. literature, philosophy), and the Big 7 became the Big 8.

The alt.* hierarchy has discussion of all kinds of topics, and many hierarchies for discussion specific to a particular geographical area or in a language other than English.

Before a new Big 8 newsgroup can be created, an RFD (Request For Discussion) must be posted into the newsgroup [news:news.announce.newgroups news.announce.newgroups], which is then discussed in [news:news.groups.proposals news.groups.proposals]. Once the proposal has been formalized with a name, description, charter, the Big-8 Management Board will vote on whether to create the group. If the proposal is approved by the Big-8 Management Board, the group is created. Groups are removed in a similar manner.

Creating a new group in the alt.* hierarchy is not subject to the same rules; anybody can create a newsgroup, and anybody can remove them, but most news administrators will ignore these requests unless a local user requests the group by name.

Further hierarchies

There are a number of newsgroup hierarchies outside of the Big 8 (and alt.*) that can be found on many news servers. These include non-English language groups, groups managed by companies or organizations about their products, geographic/local hierarchies, and even non-internet network boards routed into NNTP. Examples include (alphabetically):
  • aus.* — Australian news groups
  • ba.* — Discussion in the San Francisco Bay area
  • ca.* — Discussion in California
  • can.* — Canadian news groups
  • cn.* — Chinese news groups
  • chi.* — Discussions about the Chicago area
  • de.* — Discussions in German
  • england.* — Discussions (mostly) local to England, see also uk.*
  • fidonet.* — Discussions routed from FidoNet
    FidoNet is a worldwide computer network that is used for communication between bulletin board systems. It was most popular in the early to mid 1990s, prior to the introduction of easy and affordable access to the Internet...

  • fr.* — Discussions in French
  • fj.* — "From Japan," discussions in Japanese
  • gnu.* — Discussions about GNU software
  • hawaii.* — Discussions (mostly) local to Hawaii
  • hp.* — Hewlett-Packard internal news groups
  • it.* — Discussions in Italian
  • microsoft.* — Discussions about Microsoft products
  • pl.* — Polish news groups
  • tw.* — Taiwan news groups
  • uk.* — Discussions on matters in the UK
  • yale.* — Discussions (mostly) local to Yale

Additionally, there is the free.* hierarchy, which can be considered "more alt than alt.*". There are many local sub-hierarchies within this hierarchy, usually for specific countries or cultures (such as* for Italy).

Binary newsgroups

While newsgroups were not created with the intention of distributing binary files, they have proven to be quite effective for this. Because of the way they work, a file uploaded once will be spread and can then be downloaded by an unlimited number of users. More useful is that every user is drawing on the bandwidth of his or her own news server. This means that unlike P2P
Peer-to-peer computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or workloads among peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application...

 technology, the user's download speed is under his or her own control, as opposed to under the willingness of other people to share files. In fact, this is another benefit of newsgroups: it is usually not expected that users share. If every user makes uploads then the servers would be flooded; thus it is acceptable and often encouraged for users to just leech
Leech (computing)
In computing and specifically Internet, a leech or leecher is one who benefits, usually deliberately, from others' information or effort but does not offer anything in return, or makes only token offerings in an attempt to avoid being called a leech...


There were originally a number of obstacles to the transmission of binary files over Usenet. First, Usenet was designed with the transmission of text in mind. Consequently, for a long period of time, it was impossible to send binary data as it was. So, a workaround, Uuencode
Uuencoding is a form of binary-to-text encoding that originated in the Unix program uuencode, for encoding binary data for transmission over the uucp mail system.The name "uuencoding" is derived from "Unix-to-Unix encoding"...

 (and later on Base64
Base64 is a group of similar encoding schemes that represent binary data in an ASCII string format by translating it into a radix-64 representation...

 and yEnc
yEnc is a binary-to-text encoding scheme for transferring binary files in messages on Usenet or via e-mail. It reduces the overhead over previous US-ASCII-based encoding methods by using an 8-bit Extended ASCII encoding method...

), was developed which mapped the binary data from the files to be transmitted (e.g. sound or video files) to text characters which would survive transmission over Usenet. At the receiver's end, the data needed to be decoded by the user's news client
News client
A newsreader is an application program that reads articles on Usenet . Newsreaders act as clients which connect to a news server, via the Network News Transfer Protocol , to download articles and post new articles...

. Additionally, there was a limit on the size of individual posts such that large files could not be sent as single posts. To get around this, Newsreaders were developed which were able to split long files into several posts. Intelligent newsreaders at the other end could then automatically group such split files into single files, allowing the user to easily retrieve the file. These advances have meant that Usenet is used to send and receive many terabytes of files per day.

There are two main issues that pose problems for transmitting binary files over newsgroups. The first is completion rate
Completion rate
Completion rates measure the useful transmission of complete binary files across newsgroups.Newsgroups function by a large network of servers which regularly synchronize posts with each other. Each time a post is transferred between news servers there is a chance that it will be dropped...

s and the other is retention rate
Retention rate
The term "retention rate" is used in a variety of fields, including marketing, investing and education.In marketing, retention rate is used to count customers and track customer activity irrespective of the number of transactions made by each customer...

s. The business of premium news server
News server
A news server is a set of computer software used to handle Usenet articles. It may also refer to a computer itself which is primarily or solely used for handling Usenet. A reader server provides an interface to read and post articles, generally with the assistance of a news client. A transit...

s is generated primarily on their ability to offer superior completion and retention rates, as well as their ability to offer very fast connections to users. Completion rates are significant when users wish to download large files that are split into pieces; if any one piece is missing, it is impossible to successfully download and reassemble the desired file. To work around the problem, a redundancy scheme known as PAR
Parchive is an open source software project that emerged in 2001 to develop a parity file format, as conceived by Tobias Rieper and Stefan Wehlus...

 is commonly used.

A number of websites exist for the purpose of keeping an index of the files posted to binary newsgroups.

Moderated newsgroups

A moderated newsgroup has one or more individuals who must approve articles before they are posted at large. A separate address is used for the submission of posts and the moderators then propagate posts which are approved for the readership. The first moderated newsgroups appeared in 1984 under mod.* according to RFC 2235, "Hobbes' Internet Timeline".

See also

  • List of newsgroups
  • alt.* hierarchy
  • News client
    News client
    A newsreader is an application program that reads articles on Usenet . Newsreaders act as clients which connect to a news server, via the Network News Transfer Protocol , to download articles and post new articles...

  • NNTP
  • News aggregator
  • Backbone cabal
    Backbone cabal
    The backbone cabal was an informal organization of large-site administrators of the worldwide distributed Internet discussion system Usenet. It existed from about 1983 at least into the 2000s....

  • Google Groups
    Google Groups
    Google Groups is a service from Google Inc. that supports discussion groups, including many Usenet newsgroups, based on common interests. The service was started in 1995 as Deja News, and was transitioned to Google Groups after a February 2001 buyout....

External links