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Understanding USENET Newsgroups

USENET is a network of host computers that exchange messages, which are organized by topic into groups, called newsgroups. Within USENET, there are more than 18,000 different global and regional newsgroups that are publicly shared. Organizations can subscribe to USENET to obtain access to newsgroup information.

USENET newsgroups are organized according to subject, and a newsgroup is available for nearly every conceivable topic. The most popular newsgroup categories, called hierarchies, are alt and the "big-eight" (comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk). Several hundred other hierarchies exist for regional and special interest discussion forums.

The following table describes the alt and big-eight newsgroup hierarchies:

Hierarchy Description
alt Alternative or controversial topics.
comp Computer topics, such as computer science and information about software and hardware.
humanities Humanities topics, such as philosophy.
misc Miscellaneous topics that aren't classified under other categories.
news Information about USENET.
rec Topics relating to recreational activities, hobbies, and the arts.
sci Topics relating to the sciences and scientific research.
soc Newsgroups for socializing and addressing social issues.
talk Discussions about politics, religion, and other issues.

Each hierarchy contains numerous newsgroups, or subcategories, for related topics. For example, the newsgroup includes topics related to coffee, the newsgroup includes topics about travel, and so on.

The following newsgroups provide useful information about USENET and newsgroups for new users:

Newsgroup Description
news.announce.newusers Lists frequently asked questions (FAQs) about USENET.
news.newusers.questions Provides a forum for new users to ask for help.
news.announce.newgroups Includes announcements about new USENET newsgroups.
news.admin.* Provides help topics related to news administration and information about network abuse, such as flooding networks with mail (also known as spamming).

You can configure the Internet News Service to accept some or all available newsgroups by subscribing to those listed in the active file that your Internet newsfeed provider supplies. An active file contains the newsgroups that you can obtain from your newsfeed provider in a newsfeed.