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The Usenet (also sometimes spelled in capitals, USENET) is a discussion system organized as set of publicly available newsgroups.

Some people reserve the term "USENET" for the "Big-8" set of top-level groups, and the many individual newsgroups belonging to them. Those top-level hierarchies are:

  • comp.*: computer-related discussions (, comp.sys.amiga)
  • misc.*: Miscellaneous topics (,,
  • news.*: Discussions and announcements about the news system itself (meaning Usenet, not current events) (news.groups, news.admin)
  • rec.*: Recreation and entertainment (, rec.arts.movies)
  • sci.*: Science related discussions (sci.psychology, sci.research)
  • soc.*: Social discussions (, soc.culture.african, soc.sexuality.spanking)
  • talk.*: Talk about various controversial topics (talk.religion, talk.politics)
  • humanities.*: art, literature, and philosophy (humanities.classics,

(Note: the asterisks are used as wildcard patterns)

There are, however, many newsgroup hierarchies not part of the "big-8". The technical details on how news messages are posted and propogated are the same for all hierarchies, but the administrative standards, including naming and formation guidelines, and moderation arrangements, vary with each hierarchy. The term "USENET" is usually applied only to the "big-8" and (by some) to the alt.* hierarchy. The more general term "netnews" incorporates the entire medium, including private organizational news systems.

Usenet evolved from a general purpose UUCP (Unix-to-Unix Copy Program) network of the same name. Users read and post e-mail-like messages (called "articles") to a number of distributed newsgroups, categories that resemble bulletin board systems in most respects. The medium is distributed among a large number of servers, which store and forward messages to one another. Individual users download and post messages to a single server, usually operated by their ISP or university, and the servers exchange the messages between each other. Thus there is no single "site" where any usenet article is stored.

Usenet was the initial Internet community and the place for many of the most important public developments in the commercial internet. It was the place where Tim Berners-Lee announced the launch of the World Wide Web, Marc Andreesen announced the creation of the Mosaic browser and the introduction of the image tag, which revolutionized the World Wide Web by turning it into a graphical medium. On the more nefarious side, it was also the first place to suffer from spam, with the infamous Canter & Siegel lawyers (aka the Green Card Lawyers) spamming Usenet and drawing the ire of Internet users everywhere. The term "spam" was invented as a name for unwanted multiply posted nes messages in response to this incident.

Web-based archiving of Usenet posts began in 1995 at Deja News with a very large, searchable database. In 2001, this database was acquired by Google who named this service Google Groups.

See also[edit]


Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Usenet. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.