Power Usenet Newsgroup Service

What are Newsgroups?

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Switching from our previous example comparing Usenet to email inboxes, we are now going to compare newsgroups with internet forums. In internet forums, posts are associated with threads on different topics. You navigate to the thread you are interested in reading, and browse the posts that are associated with it.

With Usenet Newsgroups, the idea is the same, you navigate thru newsgroups that are associated with different topics called "discussions" and read the articles that are associated to it. This organizational system is very easy to use and extremely useful to know. The naming structure that Usenet uses is called Newsgroup Hierarchies.

Newsgroup Hierarchies are discussion topics named with topical prefixes used to categorize articles into relevant categorical newsgroups. The 8 most well known newsgroup hierarchies are called The Big 8, and are listed below.

  • comp.* — Discussion of computer-related topics
  • news.* — Discussion of News
  • sci.* — Discussion of scientific subjects
  • rec.* — Discussion of recreational activities (e.g. games and hobbies)
  • soc.* — Socialising and discussion of social issues.
  • talk.* — Discussion of contentious issues such as religion and politics.
  • misc.* — Miscellaneous discussion—anything which doesn't fit in the other hierarchies.
  • humanities.* — Humanities topics

If you look at the list above, you'll notice that there are discussion topics categorized with prefixes: comp (computer related topics), news (news discussion), sci (scientific subjects), rec (recreational activities like games and hobbies), soc (social issues), talk (religion and politics), misc (miscellaneous), and humanities (humanities). There are several dozens more newsgroup hierarchies, but The Big 8 that we listed are the most widely used.

Newsgroup hierarchies use a naming system with the first prefix being the top level hierarchy and the latter prefixes which are used as descriptors. For example, if I was interested in guitars, I could navigate to the alt.guitars newsgroup and read up on discussions about guitars. I could even search for even more explicit newsgroups on guitars such as alt.guitars.gibson, if I wanted to read guitar discussions limited to the manufacturer Gibson. The naming structure was created to assist you in finding discussions on whatever topic you were interested in reading.

Newsgroups are the containers for all articles on Usenet. Becoming familiar with newsgroup hierarchies allows you to find information much easier when browsing discussions on Usenet Newsgroups.

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