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2024-06-13 21:22 GMT

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What is Usenet?

Usenet is older than the internet itself. Originally set up in the late 1970's to allow academics and others in specialized fields to engage in group discussions with their peers across the globe, it has since evolved into an uncensored system of exchanging virtually anything that can be transmitted between computers. If you're heard about something - it's almost certain it's on Usenet. And a whole lot more you never imagined even existed. Usenet is an almost unlimited resource, with around 110,000 active newsgroups covering anything and everything.

Usenet functions a lot like email, except that instead of addressing messages to an individual, they are addressed to a group. And anyone wishing to read or post messages in a particular group, does so by connecting to a Usenet server across an internet connection.
Usenet is not web based, a newsreader program (ie. Outlook Express, or any of the newsreaders listed on our Newsreader page) is needed on the user’s computer to read articles and download attached files. Some providers, like AOL, have experimented with web interfaces to Usenet, but most users prefer the much more flexible usage that specialized newsreaders provide. You “subscribe” to a group by telling the software in your own computer to check the messages in a particular group. (Don’t be frightened by the term “subscribe.” Nowhere is there ever a subscriber list. The term “subscribe” is used in reference to how you set up your computer and software. Only you and your computer know which groups you have “subscribed” to.)

There is no “central” Usenet server. Rather there are thousands of servers chained and crosslinked together in order to exchange articles between them, and to keep the articles available for their own users to read for a period of time ranging from hours to weeks. (It is this lack of centralization that has protected Usenet from the legal attacks such as that which destroyed Napster.)