What are Newsgroups?

Article ID: 91

One of the busiest parts of the Internet, Usenet newsgroups are electronic discussion groups in which you can share information and opinions with people all over the world. You can access newsgroups with news readers such as Outlook Express, Netscape Navigator, or Forte Agent among others.

Within each newsgroup, you'll find any number of articles on a given subject, and many subjects being discussed. Usenet newsgroups allow you to reply to articles you have read and to publish ("post") your own articles for others to read.

Newsgroups differ widely in subject and style. Topics vary from avionics to zoology; content ranges from scientific discourse to casual chatting. With thousands of newsgroups available, there's something for just about everyone. Some groups are moderated and have regulated content, while others have a chaotic barrage of messages. Some have a very high volume of messages (hundreds or more each day), while others may have only a small trickle of articles.

Newsgroups are organized and grouped by title using hierarchical compound names such as rec.sport.basketball.college. Here, rec specifies recreational topics, sport specifies a subgroup of recreation, and so on. Other categories include the following:

Within each category you'll find other subgroups.

If you decide to participate in a newsgroup, it's best first to read a representative selection of articles over several days or even weeks before posting. (In the jargon of some newsgroups, this is known as "lurking".) Each newsgroup may have its own set of accepted guidelines for what constitutes an appropriate posting, and becoming familiar with the group before posting will help you show good manners ("netiquette") and avoid offending others.

If you are new to Usenet, you should also read the newsgroups news.newusers.questions and news.announce.newusers to learn about technique and "netiquette" before posting.

You can also find a large repository of Usenet FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) files for a wide variety of newsgroups and subjects at the Usenet FAQ Files site at:


It's best to read any existing FAQ for a newsgroup before posting so that you'll avoid irritating other readers by asking questions that have already been answered many times.

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