Common Usenet Terms

Let’s get started by defining Usenet and Newsgroups:

Usenet – in a nutshell Usenet gives you the ability to post and download messages commonly referred to as articles from newsgroups. The terms Usenet and newsgroups often refer to the same thing.

Newsgroups – those of you familiar with the old BBS days remember dialing into a service where you could share information and files. Newsgroups are a natural extension except that they are not restricted to a central server like the bulletin board systems were. Newsgroups are decentralized which means there is no one owner of the content. While various networks mesh to share messages it is very important to choose the right Usenet provider. We’ll get into more detail on the selection process later in the tutorial. Newsgroups are normally named according to their content type which making it easier to find your topics of interest.

Here are some more terms that you will find helpful:

Articles – also referred to as posts. You could think of articles like you would an email. They can include both text and attached binary files. You will often hear the term binary newsgroups which refers to those groups that commonly offer binary files in their posts.

Attachments – this should be a familiar term for any email user. Much like email messages attachments are binary files that are uploaded as part of an article or post.

Big Eight – refers to the eight major hierarchies of newsgroups. These include comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc, and talk. You will notice that alt is not part of the Big Eight. Because of this it tends to be less organized. However, this is where you will find almost all of the binary newsgroups. The alt.binaries groups are by far the largest.

Binary Newsgroups – you will often hear groups referred to as either discussion groups or binary groups. Binary groups concentrate on binary file postings. Unlike discussion groups which would greatly frown on binaries being included in their groups.

Completion – refers to the percentage of files that are complete on the server. Long retention rates are great but if needed files are missing or corrupt then your in trouble. This is an area where the top providers really distance themselves from the pack.

Header – much like a document, newsgroup articles have both a header and a body. The header defines who posted the article along with the Usenet provider they used. It also gives a subject heading for the post. While downloading headers is less common doing so can take quite a while for the larger binary groups. Many of the top newsreaders providers and NZB sites allow you to search the newsgroups and choose articles for download without ever having to download headers.

ISP – most of you are probably familiar with the term Internet Service Provider. What you might not be aware of is that many providers will limit attempt to limit your bandwidth to newsgroups. they will do this by throttling the bandwidth to common ports used to connect to the groups. To help you get the full bandwidth that the ISP’s advertise and you pay for many Usenet providers offer alternate ports which the newsreaders can use to attach to their servers.

Metered Usenet Account – refers to an account that is limited to a set amount of monthly bandwidth allowance. An example might be 30 Gb a month. These accounts are almost always less expensive than unlimited Usenet accounts.

NZB – thanks to the folks over at Newzbin you no longer have to download headers. Through the use of some newsreaders or NZB search sites you can choose the files you would like to download and then mark them for download without ever downloading header information. This can save you hours over searching the old way.

Peering – term commonly used by Usenet access providers in reference to agreements they have with other Usenet servers to share articles. The better peered the provider is the more complete their content.

Post – also referred to as articles. You could think of posts like you would an email. They can include both text and attached binary files. You will often hear the term binary newsgroups which refers to those groups that commonly offer binary files in their posts.

Repost – sometimes you may ask someone to repost an article because it was corrupt or has fallen out of circulation. This happens less and less often as retention rates continue to rise.

Retention – refers to the amount of days an article is kept on the providers server before deletion. Many news servers will advertise separate retention rates for text groups versus binary groups. This is an important area when it comes to choosing the right provider.

Unlimited Usenet Account – refers to an account that offers unlimited downloads without any monthly bandwidth limits.

yEnc – method for encoding binary files with only about 5% overhead.

Top 10 Usenet

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