ARCHIVED: About Usenet newsgroups

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Usenet newsgroups are electronic discussion groups in which you can share information and opinions with people all over the world. In Usenet newsgroups, you can reply to articles you have read and publish ("post") your own articles for others to read. Newsgroups differ widely in subject and style, ranging from casual chat to serious discourse.

Accessing newsgroups

Indiana University no longer offers a Usenet news server. To read Usenet newsgroups, UITS recommends using Google Groups at:

If your Internet service provider (ISP) offers access to a news server, you can read newsgroups with newsreaders such as trn or tin, or you can use a desktop newsreader such as Thunderbird or Outlook Express.

Reading newsgroups on the web

One of the most popular and reliable ways to read Usenet newsgroups on the web is through Google. Go to the Google Groups interface at:

From here, you can read and search both recent and archived postings, as well as post new messages.

Reading newsgroups in email

If you use Google Groups, you can receive newsgroup posts via email. See the Google Groups help for instructions.

Available newsgroups

For a comprehensive listing of Usenet newsgroups, see Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups. The list is arranged by topic, and you can also search for newsgroups on a particular subject.

Newsgroup hierarchies

Newsgroups are organized and grouped by title using hierarchical compound names such as Here, rec specifies recreational topics, sport specifies a subgroup of recreation, and so on. The Big Eight mainstream hierarchies are:

  • comp: Anything related to computers (e.g., programming languages, operating systems, hardware)
  • humanities: Art, music, literature, philosophy, classical studies, etc.
  • misc: An assortment of topics that don't fit in any of the other Big Eight hierarchies
  • news: Pertaining to the administration and discussion of Usenet software, protocols, policies, etc.
  • rec: Recreation and hobbies of all kinds
  • sci: Academic discussions of science and, to a lesser extent, technology
  • soc: History, culture, religion, politics, lifestyle, and other topics of social interest
  • talk: Debate and extended discussion, often heated

Alternative hierarchies have smaller distributions than their mainstream cousins; each has its own rules and focus. These hierarchies include:

  • alt: This is by far the largest and most diverse hierarchy; all manner of topics can be found here. As there is no formal newsgroup creation procedure, anyone may create an alt group at any time. For this reason, many news servers either do not carry alt, or subscribe to only a small portion of its groups.
  • biz: Almost as well established as the mainstream groups, biz caters to a variety of business interests.
  • k12: This hierarchy contains groups designed for K-12 educators.

Numerous national, regional, local, and organizational hierarchies also exist, some of which are available globally (e.g., the chi groups for Chicago, the relcom Russian language groups, and the British uk hierarchy).

For more information, see the Master List of Newsgroup Hierarchies.

Newsgroup etiquette

If you decide to participate in a newsgroup, it's best first to read a representative selection of articles over several days or even weeks before posting. (In the jargon of some newsgroups, this is known as lurking.) Each newsgroup may have its own set of guidelines for what constitutes an appropriate posting, and becoming familiar with the group before posting will help you show good manners (netiquette) and avoid offending others.

If you are new to Usenet, consult the newsgroups news.newusers.questions and news.announce.newusers to learn about technique and netiquette before posting.

You can also find a large repository of Usenet FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) files for a wide variety of newsgroups and subjects at the Usenet FAQ Files site. It's best to read any existing FAQ for a newsgroup before posting so that you'll avoid irritating other readers by asking questions that have already been answered many times.

Searching newsgroup archives

Google maintains archives of Usenet newsgroups. To search these archives, visit:

Creating a newsgroup

If you wish to create a group in one of the mainstream Usenet hierarchies (i.e., comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, or talk), consult How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup.

Additional helpful resources include:

The resources above are also posted regularly to news.groups.

There are numerous lesser newsgroup hierarchies, and each has its own guidelines for newsgroup creation. For local and organizational groups, it is often as simple as contacting the Usenet administrator and describing your proposed group. Hierarchies with broader scopes will often devote a newsgroup (*.config, *.admin, or something similar) to discussing proposals.

This is document aebt in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2023-09-22 18:02:29.