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Definition: Usenet is a collection of discussion groups that involve thousands of people all around the world. Within Usenet discussion groups topics vary widely, each group discussing a different topic. Literally any topic that you could consider there most likely is a discussion group devoted to it, and you can go there and read what others are saying or add to the discussion yourself.  Currently there are more than 20,000 active newsgroups and the number grows daily.

Newsgroups are divided into categories to try and add some structure to all this. Each newsgroup is given a name that consists of multiple parts, each part of the name is seperated by a ".".  The first part of the name specifies what newsgroup the discussion belongs to.  Here is a partial list of some of the categories:

alt Alternative newsgroups, most everything is here
bionet Biology discussions
bit Discussions from the Bitnet mailing lists
comp Computer discussions
ddn Defense Data Network
ieee Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
gnu Discussion about the GNU project
info Various Topics
k12 Kindergarden to High School discussions
misc Anything that cannot fit into other categories
news Discussions about Usenet
rec Recreation discussions
sci All types of Science
soc Social Issues
talk Debates on controversial topics

This all might seem a little confusing till you see a couple examples.  By looking at the title of the newsgroup you can tell what it is about. For example:

alt.comp.lang.borland-delphi -- This would be a discussion on the programming language Delphi by Borland.

alt.comp.periphs.scanner -- This is a discussion on a certain peripheral the scanner.

comp.os.ms-windows.apps.financial -- This group would discuss all financial applications available for Microsof Windows.

For Additional Information:

Bullet-1.gif (1649 bytes) A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community
Bullet-1.gif (1649 bytes) Netiquette
Bullet-1.gif (1649 bytes) Netizens: An Anthology
Bullet-1.gif (1649 bytes) Rules for posting to Usenet
Bullet-1.gif (1649 bytes) What are Usenet newsgroups?

See Also: Finding Newsgroups.
See Also:
Newsgroups Software.
See Also: Searching Newsgroups.

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Revised: March 01, 1998.