What is Usenet?

The Internet is a vast and almost limitless worldwide network. Many people use the Internet to access information and discuss ideas. Search engines are useful and so are news companies’ websites.  There is, however, one worldwide network that has existed for decades and provides users with a logical and efficient way to access and post information. This network is called Usenet.

The Beginning of Usenet

Usenet was created by two Duke University graduate students in 1979. Their idea was rather simple, yet valuable. They wanted to create a way for several computing devices, in different locations, to be able to send and receive messages between themselves. Their system was like e-mail, but was also centered on creating a hierarchy of topical categories for users to access. These categories are called ‘newsgroups’. Users could read or post articles to the network categories, and then send discussion messages to the ‘thread’ that the article had begun.

As the Internet became mainstream in the 1990s, Usenet’s popularity grew, and it has proceeded to evolve into the system that it is today.

Modern Day Usenet

Usenet Usenet today is a worldwide network of servers exchanging newsgroup articles. These articles can be acquired from anywhere in the world. Currently, there are over 100,000 newsgroups worldwide. The most prevalent newsgroups are:

1.)    comp.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to computer-related discussions.

2.)    humanities.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to fine arts, literature, and philosophy.

3.)    misc.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to miscellaneous topics

i.      Such as: schooling, personal selling of goods, children, etc.

4.)    news.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to discussions about the Usenet network itself.

5.)    rec.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to recreation and entertainment.

i.      Such as: movies, sports, games, music, etc.

6.)    sci.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to science related discussions.

7.)    soc.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to social and cultural discussions.

8.)    talk.*

  1. This newsgroup is devoted to controversial topics

i.      Such as: religion, politics, etc.

9.)    alt.*

  1. This newsgroup is not devoted to anything in particular.  It contains many highly specific subgroups.

So, users may access these groups and then proceed into the subgroup categories in order to narrow down searches. The system is quite logical and allows users to find information on any topic under the sun.

How to Use It?

To access Usenet, Internet users must use a ‘news client’, otherwise known as a ‘newsreader’.  There are some free  newsreaders available, but these are quite often limited in their performance. There are also specialized, premium Usenet providers who offer high-quality news client software to their customers. A high-quality news client allows users to easily and efficiently navigate through Usenet and transfer articles quickly.

There are some other major differences between free providers and premium providers. Free providers cannot guarantee long retention rates or thorough completion. Basically, they do not have the storage capacity to retain great quantities of information and data for long periods of time. Premium service providers should offer both impressive retention and completion rates. They make retention and completion main priorities of their operations.


Usenet began around thirty years ago. The system itself has not changed much, but the way that it is provided to users has changed immensely. There are now premium Usenet service providers that offer users a host of benefits to make their Usenet experiences easy, fast, and secure.

About the Author: William Ross has been a lifelong fan of Usenet.  He enjoys informing readers about information resources that are often overlooked.  He firmly believes anyone looking for a Usenet Service should consider security, retention, and speed.

Image credit: Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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