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Usenet Newsgroups

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In this brief article I am going to attempt to explain what Newsgroups are, how the network they are based on works and why everyone on the internet should participate.


Think of a Newsgroup as a category of discussion, where people with similar interests get together to discuss a specific topic. The variety of Newsgroup topics is vast; you can find Newsgroups pertaining to everything from your favorite soap opera to the most advanced theoretical scientific discussions. Odds are, if there is a subject that interests you there is at least one newsgroup focused on that subject. Should you happen to stumble onto a topic that is not covered, you can even create your own Newsgroup based on that subject!

How it works

Now that you know the basics of what newsgroups are I will discuss a little bit about how they work. Newsgroups are based on a public domain network called Usenet. This network is made up of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of interconnected computers located all over the world. These computers are interconnected via the internet in a peer to peer topology.

This means that the server administrators have agreed to forward all of the information they have onto all of the other Newsgroup servers that they are “peered” with. The reason for having these peering relationships is to propagate as many articles as possible to as many different servers as possible. Therefore, the more peering agreements a newsgroup server has the more articles it will receive and transmit each day. This system’s goal is to have all available articles equally distributed across the Usenet network and because of this I am able to read the same articles on my Usenet server in Palo Alto, California as my Friend Sam is able to read on his local Newsgroup server in Miami, Florida.

Why participate?

Having read this far you are probably asking yourself what newsgroups can do for you. How about an example from real life? Let’s say that you just spent $20,000 on a new speedboat. You are really enjoying you new boat but notice that the engine always smokes when at low RPMs. You consult the owner’s manual and find noting about this, you even call dealer back and tell him about the problem but they say that it is a normal condition.

Having your wallet 20 grand lighter you don’t care for their explanation so you decide to embark on a quest for the truth. You log onto your Fast Usenet server and search for newsgroups containing Yamaha. You go into the newsgroup called rec.boats and post a message about your situation. A few hours later you return to this newsgroup and low and behold, many other people have had this problem with this model of motor and the manufacturer even has a recall out and will fix the defect at no cost.

The person at the boat marine dealer either did not know about this recall or chose not to tell you, but because you had access to the wealth of information available in the newsgroups you were able to find the information you needed and you are your new boat will live happily ever after. This example is just one of they ways newsgroups can be beneficial in your daily life and I hope I have inspired you to check them out for yourself.

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