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Usenet is an early form of communication forum on the Internet (originating in the APRAnet), and the oldest communication forum still in use today. Usenet works by transmitting files from one server to another in a distributed fashion using the Network News Transfer Protocol (though originally it used the Unix to Unix Transfer Protocol).

Usenet is designed for the transfer of plain-text files in threads, near-identical to what one would expect for an Email newsgroup system. However, in more recent years, Usenet has devolved mostly to a Warez transfer system, where people are distributing binary attachments instead of these plain-text communications. These are mostly in groups such as alt.binaries.*.

Most services that attempt to be real Usenet services block access to the alt.binaries subgroup, and actually forbid the upload of binary files.

Usenet historically cost money and time but now-a-days most providers for real usenet are free of charge. Ones that allow binary distribution require a moderate fee, however.

How to use

In the old days, every person reading Usenet was expected to be a Usenet server. This is heavily antiquated, from the time that people would batch-upload to other servers at night because the phone rates at night were cheaper. Very old line of thought. Now, there are servers that provide that functionality to you. All you need to do is create an account with them, read their server info, and then setup your newsreader accordingly. Note: You should not confuse Newsreader with a Feedreader. One is for Usenet, the other is for reading RSS posts from websites. There are countless newsreaders avaible, and usenet is such an easy service to implement that most mail clients (and some web browsers) allow for Usenet read/write access. Some popular Newsreaders (that only read news, not email) are Slrn for terminals, and Pan (originally short for Pimp-Ass Newsreader) for Gnome. Do not use Google Groups for Usenet access. People will yell at you.

In the old days, most ISP's began offering free Usenet service. The first was AOL. Most have since stopped. Before selecting one of the other services that provide it, see if your ISP still provides free usenet access first. Of course, most will not since this was mostly back in the days when your ISP would also host a site for you, slashdot was tolerable, and Red Hat first went public on the Stock Market.

Popular groups

  • comp.os.linux.advocacy

This is essentially the /g/ of Usenet, and if you know how bad /g/ has become...

  • alt.politics

The politics group. There are subgroups of this one as well.

  • alt.os.linux

For people into Linux

  • alt.comp.hardware

For people wanting to talk about Computer Hardware

  • 24hoursupport.helpdesk


  • linux.debian.user

The official usenet group for Debian GNU/Linux.

  • linux.kernel

Official announcements on the Linux Kernel

  • news.software.readers

Newsreader software discussion

  • bit.listserv.ibm-main

A neat echo from IBM's central mainframe. Read their communications, but you really have no point posting there.

  • alt.privacy.anon-server

Discussion on Server Security.

  • alt.binaries

This is where all the binaries go. Most respectable servers block access to it. It's filled with lolita pornography, warez, stupid shit, and etc.

There are countless others. Feel free to explore.


Text only

Note: Services with a Plus next to their name denote a server that requires payment

Note: Services with an Ampersand next to their name denote a service that allows free read (download) access, but no write access. Usually these services either a paid account or simply exist to be read-only servers.

Binary and Text

Further reading

  • Blinky the Shark, a former Usenet user who provided links and useful information to Usenet newbies.
  • ESR's Jargon File is a dictionary of hacker slang, most of which is used in Usenet. There is a long and cool history of the Jargon File (dating back to the 1950's) which you can view on Wikipedia.