newsreaders – servers

Usenet newsgroups are access via your newsreader:

Commercial software

Free/open source software



A Usenet newsreader is PC software or, increasingly, a web site which allows you to browse Usenet messages from a Usenet news server. Google Groups is the prime example of an online Usenet newsreader. It is also the most complete archive of Usenet text messages known to exist. However, Google Groups does not provide access to Usenet binaries such as images or video. Some examples of PC-based newsreaders would include Outlook Express and Forte FreeAgent.

The problem with PC-based newsreaders is that you must have them installed on every computer you use for Usenet access, and browsing and decoding binaries is much more awkward and time-consuming then a website which has already decoded, thumbnailed, and indexed all the binaries and simply allows you to browse thumbnails. Web-based newsreaders usually also provide advanced search capabilities across all binaries on the server, which a PC-based newsreader cannot do. Most newsreaders mentioned have both free and paid services/products.

MP3 and full movies are often posted to the Usenet as well, although the selection of MP3’s is negligible compared to most any file-sharing service such as Kazaa, and movies are extremely time consuming to find all the parts, download, and decode, and you dont know until you have finished the process whether what you downloaded was a decent copy of the movie you wanted, or a horrible recording made by a camcorder in a theatre, or wasn’t even the movie you wanted in the first place.

Software is also posted to the Usenet, but running executables posted on the Usenet is a great way to introduce a virus, trojan, or spyware on your computer, so beware.


What is Usenet?

What is Usenet?

Usenet is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose UUCP dial-upnetwork architecture. Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979, and it was established in 1980. Users read and post messages (called articles or posts, and collectively termed news) to one or more categories, known as newsgroups. Usenet resembles a bulletin board system (BBS) in many respects and is the precursor to Internet forums that are widely used today. Discussions are threaded, as with web forums and BBSs, though posts are stored on the server sequentially. The name comes from the term “users network”.

One notable difference between a BBS or web forum and Usenet is the absence of a central server and dedicated administrator. Usenet is distributed among a large, constantly changing conglomeration of servers that store and forward messages to one another in so-called news feeds. Individual users may read messages from and post messages to a local server operated by a commercial usenet provider, their Internet service provider, university, employer, or their own server.

Usenet has significant cultural importance in the networked world, having given rise to, or popularized, many widely recognized concepts and terms such as “FAQ”, “flame”, and “spam”.

Usenet was conceived in 1979 and publicly established in 1980, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, over a decade before the World Wide Webwas developed and the general public received access to the Internet, making it one of the oldest computer network communications systems still in widespread use. It was originally built on the “poor man’s ARPANET”, employing UUCP as its transport protocol to offer mail and file transfers, as well as announcements through the newly developed news softwaresuch as A News. The name Usenet emphasized its creators’ hope that the USENIX organization would take an active role in its operation.

The articles that users post to Usenet are organized into topical categories known as newsgroups, which are themselves logically organized into hierarchies of subjects. For instance, sci.math and sci.physics are within the sci.* hierarchy, for science. Or, and talk.atheism are in the talk.* hierarchy. When a user subscribes to a newsgroup, the news client software keeps track of which articles that user has read.

In most newsgroups, the majority of the articles are responses to some other article. The set of articles that can be traced to one single non-reply article is called a thread. Most modern newsreaders display the articles arranged into threads and subthreads.

When a user posts an article, it is initially only available on that user’s news server. Each news server talks to one or more other servers (its “newsfeeds”) and exchanges articles with them. In this fashion, the article is copied from server to server and should eventually reach every server in the network. The later peer-to-peer networks operate on a similar principle, but for Usenet it is normally the sender, rather than the receiver, who initiates transfers. Usenet was designed under conditions when networks were much slower and not always available. Many sites on the original Usenet network would connect only once or twice a day to batch-transfer messages in and out. This is largely because the POTSnetwork was typically used for transfers, and phone charges were lower at night.

The format and transmission of Usenet articles is similar to that of Internet e-mail messages. The difference between the two is that Usenet articles can be read by any user whose news server carries the group to which the message was posted, as opposed to email messages, which have one or more specific recipients.

Today, Usenet has diminished in importance with respect to Internet forums, blogs and mailing lists. Usenet differs from such media in several ways: Usenet requires no personal registration with the group concerned; information need not be stored on a remote server; archives are always available; and reading the messages requires not a mail or web client, but a news client. The groups in alt.binaries are still widely used for data transfer.