Usenet Basics

In many occasions, Usenet has a terminology of its own. On this page you will find a definition of some frequently used terms:

Usenet existed even before what most people know as the modern internet.  It was established in 1979 and launched in 1980 in order to facilitate the communication
among universities and colleges. You can think of it as a predecessor of today’s discussion forums. Ever since broadband connections started spreading, all types of binary files
(text files, music files, software, video files, etc.) may be found on Usenet.

The content in Usenet is organized in various categories or hierarchies, the most famous of which are called the “Big Eight” hierarchies (talk.*, humanities.*, comp.*, sci.*, rec.*, soc.*, news.*, misc.*). These hierarchies again contain large numbers of different newsgroups of more specialized topics. Most of the times you can quickly see which hierarchy/topic a newsgroup belongs to, simply by checking its name in which the (short form of the) hierarchy will always appear. Newsgroups contain discussions about certain topics, much like modern web forums. Binary newsgroups are a special kind of newsgroup, containing downloadable files and can be found in the alt.* hierarchy. Files in Usenet are compressed and might be split into several parts, however.

RAR (=Roshal Archive) is currently considered as the most efficient compressing method. These type of files are especially widespread within binary newgroups, since the files posted here can be quite large.
The larger the file, the more par-files it is split up into. The possibility that one of those par files is missing increases with the amount of .rar files. .par-files were introduced to resolve this issues. These type of files are able to repair or even to recreate corrupted or missing RAR files.

Each file posted on Usenet receives a message ID. Since larger files (usually binary files) are split into smaller pieces, all of these pieces receive a separate message
ID. NZB-files can be considered an index, indicating all the parts belonging together, ultimately forming a single file.
You can search for NZB’s by either using a newsreader or NZB-indexing websites (check Usenet search for further information on NZB).

There are different types of newsreaders. In order to read and answer text posts, software like Microsoft Outlook would technically even be sufficient. However, if you plan to download binary files as well you will need a newsreader AND login information in order to sign in to the binary newsgroups. Newsreaders offer an user friendly possibility to search and download files from the Usenet.

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