Think of Usenet as a giant, worldwide electronic bulletin board. Anyone can freely post something on this bulletin board. Everyone else can read the posted items and add their own items. These voluntary contributions and free exchange of information are the foundation of the Internet. Usenet allows people on the Internet to share their opinions and experiences, openly and freely, on a level playing field. No one has priority or seniority over anyone else. Usenet gives everyone an equal opportunity to participate in the discussions.
Communication Through Usenet Newsgroups
Usenet consists of many, ongoing discussions, dealing with a wide variety of subjects. The topics relate to both work and leisure. Usenet tries to encompass only those people interested in a particular topic by dividing the subject areas into newsgroups. Each newsgroup involves one subject or topic. Some newsgroups deal with very specific topics, for example a newsgroup for car pictures in the 1970’s, could be called ‘alt.binaries.pictures.autos-1970’.
There are other groups that are more general in nature, for example a newsgroup for Nature pictures of all sorts is alt.binaries.picture.nature. Tens of thousands of newsgroups exist today and many more are added on a daily basis. Some of them are applicable to a global audience; others are more applicable to a country, city, or organization. Most of the newsgroups are available to everyone on the Internet.
What is a Newsgroup Server
When someone posts a message in a newsgroup, it is first stored on his/her Usenet provider’s news server. That server then distributes copies of the message to its peers, that is, to other servers with which it has agreed to exchange newsgroup messages directly. Those servers then distribute copies to their peers, and so on, until all the servers which carry that newsgroup have a copy of the message.
Therefore, the better peering relations a Usenet provider has established with its peers, the more information and articles that provider’s customers will have access to. When someone reads a message in a newsgroup, he/she is reading the copy that is stored on his/her provider’s news server. This server is also commonly referred to as a “newsgroup server,” or a server that hosts specific newsgroups and the articles they contain. Newsgroup servers can host tens of thousands of different newsgroups that you can easily subscribe to (and unsubscribed when no longer interested in a particular newsgroup).
How Newsgroup Servers Work
Every Newsgroup server keeps track of its articles using an index file. When a new article comes in or is posted directly by a client, the Newsgroup server makes a note in its index file so that it can quickly locate that article again in the future. This index file tells the server exactly where to look to retrieve that specific article, next time a user requests that article.
Any article that is indexed on a Newsgroup server is available to be read by any client through the use of a Newsreader software program. Any Usenet client can start a newsgroup on a given server (e.g. news.fastusenet.org) and give it any name they wish (e.g. ‘alt.binaries.pictures.naturel’ for a group that contains nature pictures). That is how Newsgroup Servers can contain so many diverse newsgroups that address very specific interests.