What Is Usenet?


What is Usenet? Many people ask this question when they come across the word. In simple terms, Usenet is a world-wide distributed discussion system that is hosted on servers via a wide variety of networks all over the world. The discussions on Usenet consist of “articles” and “messages” that are posted by Usenet users. In order to post to these messages and exchange information you must have access to a Newsreader software and also have access to a Usenet news server. These News servers are operated by a variety of entities from colleges and universities, Internet service providers and most often Usenet service providers. All of these entities have their news servers interconnected so that they can share information between the servers. Ensuring that multiple copies of the articles exist. This is the reason Usenet is so reliable.

Many folks do not understand Usenet because it is difficult to define. Many misunderstand Usenet as a place that offers news feed articles. I think the easiest analogy to make is that Usenet is a big email inbox that anyone can access. Anyone who wants to read or post articles to the giant inbox must have access to a Usenet server and a newsreader. Imagine the Newsreader being your mail client and the Usenet server as your mail server. If you send an email (article) to the giant inbox, everyone will be able to see your post-message-article. Usenet is truly the definition of free speech as you can post anything on Usenet – whether it is a discussion on how to set up a firewall on your home computer, to someone uploading pictures or another poster uploading a home video- you can find it on Usenet. Keep in mind just because you can post an article also means that someone who owns the news server can remove it if they choose to.

There are so many discussions being exchanged on Usenet that they have to organize the different topics into groups called Newsgroups. These newsgroups are classified into different hierarchies based on Subject. With all the topics and subjects available, an organization that runs news servers usually has many servers to store this information. The best Usenet servers are usually run by Usenet service providers- for profit- companies that offer Usenet to anyone who wants to buy an account.

If you would like to learn more about Usenet, newsgroup providers, how to get started, there are many websites out there that provide tutorial content.

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