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Usenet is an early form of communication forum on the Internet (originating as an alternative ARPAnet), 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 available, 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 laugh at you.

You can also use Lynx or w3m to view Usenet Articles. Simply set your provider of choice as NNTPSERVER in your environment.

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 host a site for you and give you email, Slashdot was tolerable, and Red Hat first went public on the Stock Market.

There is an expected netiquette that you should adhere to. Else, you are going to be mixed up into the spam. Please read netiquette guides and Usenet How-Tos outside of this wiki. Some basic tips: DO: provide a simple signature line that does not exceed 4 lines total. DO NOT: crosspost to every relevant or irrelevant group. DO: give proper reply headers should you cross-post. DO NOT: give invalid headers, or nonsense information. DO: respectfully wait for a reply. DO NOT: send several copies of the same message, even if you are sending to other newsgroups. DO: keep your messages short and concise. DO NOT: embed base64. DO: Make every single bit count.

Popular groups

Popular Groups on Usenet
Group Description
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. Expect stupidity, needless cross-posting, and spam bots. (Related: alt.survival, alt.survivalism, alt.censorship)
alt.os.linux For people into Linux
alt.comp.hardware For people wishing to talk about computer hardware of all kinds
24hoursupport.helpdesk Where to go for computer help, but has mostly become a spam gateway
linux.debian.user The official Usenet group for Debian GNU/Linux
linux.kernel Official announcements for the Linux Kernel
news.software.readers Newsreader software discussion
alt.privacy.anon-server Discussion on server security
alt.fan.furry Where all your yiffy dreams come true
alt.fan.douglas-adams The official fan newsgroup of author Douglas Adams. He even posted to it regularly before he died.
alt.fan.simpsons The defacto Simpsons discussion group. The newsgroup has previously been lampooned back when the Simpsons was good
alt.cyberpunk (and alt.fan.cyberpunk) Where the schway meets the information superhighway!
rec.arts.tv Literally the same off-topic nonsense as /tv/
alt.books (and alt.poetry) /lit/
alt.anime (and rec.arts.anime.*) /a/
alt.magick /fringe/ and /x/
alt.sex.* This was the naughty and sexy newsgroup hierarchy for a long time. Now? It's mostly spam to not-real telephone sex numbers. The only group really worth seeing anymore is alt.sex.stories, which still manages to operate all these years later.
comp.lang.* Formal discussion on computer languages, notably comp.lang.lisp and comp.lang.scheme
gnu.* Official Newsgroup hierarchy for the GNU Project
alt.slack Church of the Subgenius Usenet Gateway. /b/
alt.religion.kibology For your Kibo needs. Spot the Dog posts infrequently because he is a dog.
alt.binaries.* This is where all the binary files on Usenet go. Most respectable servers block access to it due to bandwidth, however it is (in contemporary times) filled with Lolita pornography from Russia, warez, viruses, and stupid shit.

There are countless others. Feel free to explore.


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.

Text only

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.