HOME

TheInfoList




A Usenet newsgroup is a repository usually within the
Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access Internet access is the ability of ...
system, for messages posted from users in different locations using the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

Internet
. They are
discussion group, typically who share a similar interest, who gather either formally or informally to discuss ideas, solve problems, or make comments. Common methods of conversing including meeting in person, conducting , using text messaging, or using a such as an ...
s and are not devoted to publishing
news News is information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whethe ...

news
. Newsgroups are technically distinct from, but functionally similar to,
discussion forum An Internet forum, or message board, is an online In computer technology and telecommunications, online indicates a state of connectivity, and offline indicates a disconnected state. In modern terminology this usually refers to an Internet ...
s on the
World Wide Web The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical Sociotechnical systems (STS) in organizational development is an approach to complex organizational ...
. Newsreader software is used to read the content of newsgroups. Before the adoption of the
World Wide Web The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical Sociotechnical systems (STS) in organizational development is an approach to complex organizational ...
, Usenet newsgroups were among the most popular Internet services, and have retained their
noncommercial A non-commercial (also spelled noncommercial) activity is an activity that does not, in some sense, involve commerce Commerce is the exchange of goods and services, especially on a large scale. Etymology The English-language word ''commerce'' ...

noncommercial
nature in contrast to the increasingly ad-laden web. In recent years, this form of open discussion on the Internet has lost considerable ground to individually-operated browser-accessible forums and
big media A media conglomerate, media group, or media institution is a company that owns numerous companies involved in mass media enterprises, such as television, radio, publishing, film, motion pictures, theme parks, or the Internet. According to the mag ...
social network A social network is a social structure made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organizations), sets of Dyad (sociology), dyadic ties, and other Social relation, social interactions between actors. The social network perspectiv ...
s such as
Facebook Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service owned by Meta Platforms. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, an ...

Facebook
and
Twitter Twitter is an American microblogging Microblogging is an online Broadcasting, broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actu ...

Twitter
. Communication is facilitated by the
Network News Transfer Protocol The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is an application protocol Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics) Protocol originally (in Late Middle English, c. 15th century) meant the minutes or logbook taken at a meet ...
(NNTP) which allows connection to Usenet servers and data transfer over the internet. Similar to another early (yet still used) protocol SMTP which is used for email messages, NNTP allows both server-server and client-server communication. This means that newsgroups can be replicated from server to server which gives the Usenet network the ability to maintain a level of robust data persistence as a result of built-in data redundancy. However, most users will access using only the client-server commands of NNTP and in almost all cases will use a GUI for browsing as opposed to command line based client-server communication specified in the NNTP protocol.


Types

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. Typically, the newsgroup is focused on a particular topic of interest. A message sent for publication on a newsgroup is called a "post". Some newsgroups allow posts on a wide variety of themes, regarding anything a member chooses to discuss as
on-topicIn the context of mailing list A mailing list is a collection of names and addresses used by an individual or an organization to send material to multiple recipients. The term is often extended to include the people subscribed to such a list, so th ...
, while others keep more strictly to their particular subject, frowning on
off-topicIn the context of mailing lists, discussion groups, internet forum, 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. Even on very ...
posts. The news admin (the administrator of a
news server A news server is a collection of software used to handle Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet acces ...
) decides how long posts are kept on their server before being expired (deleted), which is called retention. Different servers will have different retention times for the same newsgroup; some may keep posts for as little as one or two weeks, others may hold them for many years. Back when the early community was the pioneering computer society, the common habit seen with many posts was a notice at the end that disclosed whether the author had (or was free of) a personal interest (financial, political or otherwise) in making the post. This is rarer now, and the posts must be read more skeptically, as with other media. Privacy and
phishing Phishing is a type of social engineering where an attacker sends a fraudulent (e.g., spoofed, fake, or otherwise deceptive) message designed to trick a human victim into revealing sensitive information Information sensitivity is the control ...

phishing
issues have also risen in importance. The number of newsgroups grew from more than 100 as of 1983 to more than 110,000, but only 20,000 or so of those are active. Newsgroups vary in popularity; some newsgroups receive fewer than a dozen posts per year while the most popular can get several thousand in under an hour.


Binary

While newsgroups were not created with the intention of distributing files such as pictures, sound and video, they have proven to be quite effective for this. Because newsgroups are widely distributed, a file uploaded once will be spread to many other servers and can then be downloaded by an unlimited number of users. More useful is that users download from a local news server, rather than from a more distant machine with perhaps limited connectivity, as may be the case with
peer-to-peer Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A ''distributed system'' is a system whose components are located on different co ...

peer-to-peer
technology. 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 Leeches are segmented parasitic Parasitism is a Symbiosis, symbiotic biological interactions, relationship between species, where one organism, the parasite, lives on or inside another organism, the Host (biology), host, causing it so ...
. There were originally a number of obstacles to the transfer of binary files over Usenet. Usenet was originally designed with the transmission of text in mind, and so the encoding of posts caused losses in binary data where the data was not part of the protocol's
character set Character encoding is the process of assigning numbers to Graphics, graphical character (computing), characters, especially the written characters of Language, human language, allowing them to be Data storage, stored, Data communication, transmit ...
. Consequently, for a long while, it was impossible to send binary data as such. As workarounds,
codec A codec is a device or computer program In imperative programming, a computer program is a sequence of instructions in a programming language that a computer can execute or interpret. In declarative programming, a ''computer program'' is a Set ...
s such as Uuencode and later
Base64 In programming, Base64 is a group of binary-to-text encoding A binary-to-text encoding is code, encoding of data (computing), data in plain text. More precisely, it is an encoding of binary data in a sequence of character (computing), printable ...
and
yEnc yEnc is a binary-to-text encoding A binary-to-text encoding is code, encoding of data (computing), data in plain text. More precisely, it is an encoding of binary data in a sequence of character (computing), printable characters. These encodings ...
were developed which encoded 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 A newsreader is an application program Application software (app for short) is computing software designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself, typically to be used by end-users. Examples ...
. Additionally, there was a limit on the size of individual posts so 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 The byte is a units of information, unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character (computing), character of text in a computer and for this ...
of files per day. There are two main issues that pose problems for transmitting large files over newsgroups. The first is
completion rate A Usenet newsgroup is a Software repository, repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages Posting style, posted from users in different locations using Internet. They are discussion groups and are not devoted to publishing news. Newsg ...
s and the other is
retention rate The term "retention rate" is used in a variety of fields, including marketing, investing, education, in the workplace and in clinical trials. Maintaining retention in each of these fields often results in a positive outcome for the overall organizat ...
s. The business of premium
news server A news server is a collection of software used to handle Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet acces ...
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 Parchive (PAR) is commonly used. Major news servers have a retention time of more than 7 years. A number of websites exist to keep an index of files posted to binary newsgroups. Partly because of such long retention times, as well as growing
upload Uploading refers to ''transmitting'' data Data are units of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature ...

upload
ing and
download In computer network A computer network is a set of computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perfor ...

download
ing speeds, Usenet is also used by individuals to store
backup In information technology, a backup, or data backup is a copy of computer data In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of a ...

backup
data in a practice called ''Usenet backup'', or uBackup. While commercial providers offer easier-to-use online backup services, storing data on Usenet is free of charge (although access to Usenet itself may not be). A user must manually select, prepare and upload the data. Because anyone can download the backup files, the data is typically
encrypted In cryptography, encryption is the process of Code, encoding information. This process converts the original representation of the information, known as plaintext, into an alternative form known as ciphertext. Ideally, only authorized parties can ...

encrypted
. After the files are uploaded, the uploader has no control over them; they are automatically distributed to all Usenet providers that subscribe to the newsgroup they are uploaded to, so there will be copies of them spread all around the world.


Moderated newsgroups

Most Newsgroups are not moderated. A moderated newsgroup has one or more individuals who must approve posts before they are published. A separate address is used to submit posts and the moderators then propagate those they approve of. The first moderated newsgroups appeared in 1984 under mod.* according to
RFC 2235 RFC may refer to: Computing * Request for Comments A Request for Comments (RFC) is a publication in a series, from the principal technical development and standards-setting bodies for the Internet The Internet (or internet) is t ...
, "Hobbes' Internet Timeline".


Distribution

Transmission within and at the bounds of the network uses the
Network News Transfer Protocol The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is an application protocol Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics) Protocol originally (in Late Middle English, c. 15th century) meant the minutes or logbook taken at a meet ...
(NNTP) (Internet standard RFC 3977 of 2006, updating RFC 977 of 1986). Newsgroup servers are hosted by various organizations and institutions. Most
Internet service providers#REDIRECT Internet service provider {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
host their own
news server A news server is a collection of software used to handle Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet acces ...
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 nearby news servers to synchronize regularly. In this way news servers form a redundant network. When a user posts to one news server, the post is stored locally. That server then shares posts with the servers that are connected to it for those newsgroups they both carry. Those servers do likewise, propagating the posts through the network. 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; Internet forum, forums, mailing lists, or newsgroups. This is distinct from multiposting, which is the posting of separate identical messages, individually, to e ...
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 prone to failure.


Hierarchies

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 ''rec.arts.sf.starwars.games'' would be in the ''rec.*'' top-level Usenet hierarchy, where the asterisk (*) is defined as a
wildcard character In software Software is a collection of Instruction (computer science), instructions and data (computing), data that tell a computer how to work. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, physical hardware, from which the system is built and ...
. 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 The Great Renaming was a restructuring of Usenet newsgroup A Usenet newsgroup is a Software repository, repository usually within the Usenet system, for messages Posting style, posted from users in different locations using the Internet. They ar ...
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 describes how to prepare or make something, especially a dish Dish, dishes or DISH may refer to: Culinary * Dish (food), something prepared to be eaten * Dishware, plates and bowls for eating, cutting bo ...

recipe
s,
recreational drug use Recreational drug use is the use of a psychoactive drug A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, psychoactive agent, or psychotropic drug, is a chemical substance that changes nervous system function and results in alterations in perceptio ...
, and
sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual r ...
. 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
Anarchists
, Lunatics and
Terrorists
Terrorists
" (a
backronym A backronym, or bacronym, is an acronym An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical m ...
). 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 ews:news.announce.newgroups news.announce.newgroups which is then discussed in ews: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 it, 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 *''dictator.*'' – Discussions about bad governance related to the ''Dictator's Handbook'' *''ec.*'' – Discussions about Ecuadorian culture and society *''england.*'' – Discussions (mostly) local to England, see also ''uk.*'' *''fidonet.*'' – Discussions routed from
FidoNet#REDIRECT FidoNet __ / \ /, oo \ (_, /_) _`@/_ \ _ , , \ \\ , (*) , \ )) ______ , __U__, ...
*''fr.*'' – Discussions in French *''fj.*'' – "From Japan," discussions in Japanese *''gnu.*'' – Discussions about GNU software *''hawaii.*'' – Discussions (mostly) local to Hawaii *''hk.*'' – Hong Kong newsgroups *''hp.*'' – Hewlett-Packard internal news groups *''it.*'' – Discussions in Italian *''microsoft.*'' – Discussions about Microsoft products *''nl.*'' – Dutch news groups *''no.*'' – Norwegian news groups *''pl.*'' – Polish news groups *''tw.*'' – Taiwan news groups *''uk.*'' – Discussions on matters in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
*''yale.*'' – Discussions (mostly) local to
Yale University Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
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 ''free.it.*'' for Italy).


See also

*
List of newsgroups This is a partial list of newsgroups that are significant for their popularity or their position in Usenet history. The Big-8 hierarchies These are the most widely distributed and carefully controlled newsgroup hierarchies. See Big 8 (Usenet) and t ...
*
List of Usenet newsreaders Usenet Usenet () is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose Unix-to-Unix Copy (UUCP) dial-up Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access Internet access is the abi ...
* ''alt.*'' hierarchy *
News client A newsreader is an application program Application software (app for short) is computing software designed to carry out a specific task other than one relating to the operation of the computer itself, typically to be used by end-users. Examples ...
*
NNTP The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is an application protocol Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics) Protocol originally (in Late Middle English, c. 15th century) meant the minutes or logbook taken at a meet ...
*
News aggregator In computing, a news aggregator, also termed a feed aggregator, feed reader, news reader, RSS reader or simply an aggregator, is client software or a web application that aggregates web syndication, syndicated web content such as online newspaper ...


References


External links


The Big-8 Management Board
* {{Usenetnav Newsgroups