iNet Guide

Beginners Guide to Usenet.

Some might try to tell you that Usenet is among the many services which in the dying ages due to arrival of the Web, believe me, they are lying. It is true that Web has replaced Gopher, WAIS, Archie etc but it has not superseded Usenet ( at least for the time being ). Usenet still keeps growing as it used to without let and hindrance.

Okay, let's get on to the business. Usenet can be considered as a huge notice board with thousands of columns for different subjects. These different columns are called Newsgroups. It is estimated that there are over 13,000 global Newsgroups. There is a particular Newsgroup for any subject. If you have a rather innovative mind and you feel there is no any existing Newsgroup to fit to your interest, you can even start a new one. ( It must be understood that "Newsgroups" have nothing to do with news on TV, radio or newspapers. )

Newsgroups have unique names. To understand how they are named, have a look at the following Newsgroups.

Hope you can figure out what the above Newsgroups are for. Newsgroups are organised according to their specific areas of concentration. Since the groups are in the tree structure, the various areas are called hierarchies. There are seven major hierarchies.

There are some other hierarchies called alternative hierarchies.

This hierarchical structure allows you to easily find the Newsgroups you want as you will never have to search comp.* hierarchy for Spanish food recipes. ;-)

Messages in Newsgroups are called articles or postings. These articles look very similar to email messages. You don't write to Newsgroups, you post to them. You don't reply to an article, you post a follow-up. Reading and posting to usenet is much similar to read and write email.

Now let's talk about some Newsgroups which are useful for a new comer.

news.announce.newusers This group is for periodic postings that should be read by all new Usenet members, to educate themselves about the Usenet community, its norms, guidelines and mechanisms
Post your test articles here. It's a bad taste to post them in other Newsgroups.
news.newusers.questions Guess what this is for !
rec.humor.funny JOKES ! This is a moderated Newsgroup.

What is a moderated Newsgroup ? You cannot directly post to a moderated Newsgroup. Your postings are automatically re-directed to the moderator. The moderator has the right to post what (s)he likes and thinks appropriate. Therefore, moderated rec.humor.funny is funnier that unmoderated rec.humor or alt.tasteless.jokes. There is no universal way to identify moderated Newsgroups from their names but some moderated Newsgroups have the suffix .d , for instance, comp.archives.msdos.d and are moderated.

Since you are keen to learn about Usenet ( otherwise you wouldn't read up to this section ), I'd like to briefly discuss how Usenet is implemented and how it functions. Usenet is a set of machines that exchange news articles in a similar way mail servers exchange email messages. Each news server has its own administrator and (s)he will decide what Newsgroups and what articles to be carried on that news server.

Usenet is not an organisation. Usenet has no central authority. In fact, it has nothing central. Usenet is not the Internet. The Internet carries many kinds of traffic; Usenet is only one of them. Moreover the Internet is only one of the various networks carrying Usenet traffic. Network News Transfer Protocol ( NNTP ) associated with TCP/IP port 119 is the primary method for distributing news over the internet.

What are local Newsgroups ?. Local Newsgroups are limited to a particular area, they are not propagated world wide. If you are looking for a room mate to share you room ( and the rent ) and you are to post an ad to Usenet, no point choosing a global Newsgroup, local Newsgroups are ideal in this case.

How long do u think the lifetime of an article ? Well, roughly it would range from three days to one month, but it actually depends on the will of the administrator of your news server. If (s)he is short of disk space, (s)he will keep articles for a shorter period.

Hmmm, I know you are waiting impatiently to start searching Usenet, but you are thinking what software you need to. Although there are plenty of Usenet software around, You don't really need to buy new software [ instead you can copy them ;-) ]. Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer have built in Usenet software. All you have to know do is to fill in the field NNTP server. Ask your ISP what you NNTP server is and simply put it there. Unfortunately most ISPs in Sri Lanka do not provide Usenet service, ie. they don't have their own NNTP server. If this is the case, you have two options. First one is to find a free Public Access NNTP Server. ( unfortunately most of these do not let you post articles ie. read only ). Search for them from a search engine, you'll be given a long list. Try each of them and find a good server. A good server carries fairly large number of Newsgroups, allows you to post and comparatively faster.

The other option is to use a Usenet to Web gateway. Visit or Read their help and learn how to use them. There are two advantages of the Usenet to Web gateways over Public Access NNTP servers. First they archive all the news articles so you can read articles those were posted even two years ago. Second, they allow you to search news articles with keywords. The main disadvantage is that these are super slow.


Suranga Manage
December 05, 1998

Copyleft 1997-98 by Suranga Manage.

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