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What is Usenet?

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Usenet is the contraction of the User Network. It resembles just a Bulletin Board System where users can post articles or posts on various topics.

The Usenet of newsgroups is hierarchical and, similar to the Domain Name System (DNS). A usenet is a collection of user-submitted articles or posts on various topics/subjects that are posted to servers on world wide network.

Usenet System


Working of Usenet

The Usenet is built on the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), a standard Internet protocol in Request for Comments (RFC) 977 and has two components:

  • A client/server portion that allows users running client software such as Google Chrome to interact with the news servers by downloading a list of available. Usenet newsgroups on the server, read existing messages in the newsgroups, reply to existing messages, or post new messages.
  • A server/server portion that allows news servers to establish communication with each other, for the purpose of replicating messages from newsgroups.  For example, Microsoft Exchange Server fully supports NNTP.


Each topic collection of posted notes is known as a Newsgroup. There are thousands of newsgroups and it is also possible to form a new one. Many newsgroups are hosted on Internet-connected servers but they can also be hosted from servers without the Internet.

Usenet’s original protocol was Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol (UUCP), but today the Network News Transfer Protocol  (NNTP) is used. Most browsers such as those from Netscape Navigator and Microsoft, provide Usenet support and access to any newsgroups that you select. On the world wide web, Google and other similar sites provide a topic-oriented directory as well as a search approach to newsgroups and help users register to participate in them. In addition to this, there are other newsgroup readers, such as Knews, that run as separate programs.

Advantages of Newsgroups

  • Newsgroups are similar in some ways to mailing lists, but they tend to have a structure better than mailing lists, which makes it more likely that they will be around for much longer than a mailing list.
  • It is easy to find a newsgroup, and they sometimes have a moderator. A moderator is one who makes sure that things stay on track and do not disintegrate into something that is unpleasant socially.
  • Most often than not, you will be able to find the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) section on a newsgroup, which is always helpful for those who are not sure about anything. These questions tend to be the ones that are asked repeatedly and so negate the need for constantly answering the same questions.

Disadvantages of Newsgroups

  • A newsgroup is not as fast as an email or even a mailing list. Often there might be a latency of at least a day, often longer, before a response is given.
  • The information on the newsgroup is submitted by users who lack actual knowledge about the domain on which they are posting the article, so you need to be aware of this flaw, keep some alternatives ready for this and do a bit of research first then only rely on it.
  • A serious disadvantage to a newsgroup is that they can sometimes attract people who you would not give the time of day to if you were to meet them in person. This is especially worrying if children have access to newsgroups.

Usenet using a Browser

If the user doesn’t have an NNTP client program or if the company firewall will not allow a user to access Usenet services using the well-known port number for NNTP (port 119), the user can still access Usenet (if it can browse the Internet using a standard Web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer). 

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Last Updated : 28 Jan, 2023
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