AfterDawn: Glossary

Usenet

Usenet derived from a contraction of user and network is a globally decentralized distributed Internet discussion system that evolved from a general purpose architecture of the same name. Usenet was originally created by Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis in 1979. Users of a Usenet group read and post public messages to one or more categories known as newsgroups. Usenet is similar to the old BBS or bulletin board system type of network that existed prior to the advent of the Internet. Usenets, while still in existence are often referred to as the predecessor to current web forums. Discussions within a newsgroup are considered threads which are woven sequentially within the server and pulled out with modern news reader software.

The main difference between a Usenet and other forum types is there is no central server or central location which to pinpoint. Usenet is distributed among a large constantly changing conglomeration of servers which store and forward messages to one another. The servers are loosely connected in a variable mesh. Individual users of the Usenet read and post to a local server operated by their University or ISP. From there, the servers then exchange their data between one another so other readers beyond the original are able to access that thread. Usenet is the oldest computer network communications system that is still in widespread use.

The articles that users post to a Usenet are organized by topic called newsgroups. Newsgroups themselves are logically organized into hierarchies by subject. An example is alt.binaries.software and alt.binaries.books are two subjects within the hierarchal container of binaries, which derives its meaning from the way in which data is stored in binary format so computers can read them. The binaries container is then wholly contained within the alt or Alternate hierarchal container.

Most articles on a newsgroup are a response to another article somewhere. The original article can be traced back to a single non-reply article which is called a thread. Most modern newsreaders have the ability to arrange these threads and subthreads into an easy to read single discussion sorted by date of the post.

Usenet accounts are usually administered either through a University or certain ISPs. Not all ISPs offer Usenet accounts because newsgroups are often the hardest Internet service to maintain due to the large amount of data to administer. Most ISPs will outsource their newsgroup services to places such as Giganews. Its been said that 99 percent of all newsgroup server data is contained within the alt.binaries container because this is where software, music, video and images are publicly traded over the Internet.

AfterDawn.com has written a very handy and convenient guide about Usenet and accessing newsgroups. If you are interested, check it out, here: http://www.afterdawn.com/guides/archive/introducing_usenet_binary_groups.cfm

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