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Introduction to the Usenet System

Usenet is a very old system of communication that is still in active use today. It™s similar to the Internet in some ways, but predates it by many years. This system was originally designed to allow two universities to share information with one another via servers in the late 1970s.

The system was quickly adopted by individual users and became the precursor to the forums you see on the Internet today. It™s also related to the BBS systems that were the immediate predecessors to the Internet. Social networking is the biggest thing on the Internet today, but even that is very much rooted in the Usenet.

Usenet distributes information through a network of servers, called news servers. This name endures from the first usage of the system, though Usenet is really not used to convey news to any great extent. Usenet is about people having conversations in a format similar to that of an Internet forum.

The system can also be used to exchange files, images and other materials, which are referred to as œbinaries on Usenet. The system distributes information a bit differently than the regular Internet, with a chain of news servers sharing and replicating each other™s information. There are around 100,000 news groups”the Usenet equivalent of forums”available on these servers worldwide.
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Usenet newsgroups are incredibly diverse. Some of them focus heavily on the sciences, a tradition that has endured since the days when this service was principally used by universities. There are also social groups, groups that talk about various hobbies and political groups on these servers. Because the entire system focuses on these discussion groups, its™ a bit easier to find ones that appeal to you than it is on the Internet.

You connect to the Usenet using what™s called a newsreader. These programs allow you to browse the various groups, subscribe to them and participate in the discussions. News readers are inexpensive and may be included as part of the email programs you already have on your computer.

Usenet is sometimes blocked by some ISPs, so it™s a good idea to inquire with them if you have trouble getting onto the system. There are paid services online that can also get you access to newsgroups. There™s a wealth of information within these groups, and some of the private servers archive the articles for a long time after they™re posted.

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