Usenet Uncovered: A Comprehensive Beginner's Guide

Are you just starting with Usenet? Then you’re in the right place!

Usenet can be confusing for beginners that are used to the World Wide Web, but it only takes a little effort to become a Usenet master. And we’re here to help you on that journey.

What is Usenet and How Did We Get Here?

Usenet is a global communication platform based on the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP). It was invented in 1979 and went live in 1980 in North Carolina, but quickly became one of the most popular and information-rich networks online.

Through the 1980s and well into the 1990s, Usenet was among the biggest draws for the Internet because it gave users access to millions of people online and discussions about an almost unlimited range of topics. It was the first social network and helped build momentum for the Internet as a whole.

Today, Usenet remains a favorite network for countless users around the globe. The Usenet feed is larger than it’s ever been and users have access to more information than ever before.

Accessing Usenet

Starting with Usenet requires a few key steps for a good setup and more than just picking a service provider and a newsreader. Here’s a straightforward guide to get you set up quickly.

Choosing a Usenet Provider

First you need to pick a Usenet provider. Since Usenet isn’t free, you’ll need to choose a paid service that fits what you need and your budget. If you’re not sure what to look for, our reviews and rankings can help. For a quick choice, we have a list of the top Usenet providers.

Setting Up Your Newsreader

A newsreader is how you access Usenet, similar to using a Web browser for the Internet. Some providers, like Newshosting, Eweka, and Tweaknews, give you a newsreader that’s ready to go with your account. This makes it easy for beginners. If you need to find a newsreader or want to upgrade, we’ve reviewed the best ones to help you choose.

Searching on Usenet

Searching Usenet is different from searching the Web because you can’t use regular search engines like Google. You need special tools called Indexers. Some of these cost money, but there are free ones too. Some of the best newsreaders also have search built in, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. Easynews, for example, lets you search Usenet directly from any web browser.

Using a Usenet Client

To get the most out of Usenet, adding a Usenet client like NZBGet or SABnzbd can be a great move. These clients let you automate and customize your experience but don’t search on their own. You’ll need an indexer to find NZBs, which are articles you access from Usenet. This setup gives you a better Usenet experience tailored to how you want to use it.

In short, getting started with Usenet is more than just picking a provider and a newsreader. With the right tools and this guide, you’ll be all set for a deep dive into Usenet.

What is an NZB?

There is no upper limit to how large a Usenet post can be, so in the case of larger posts, they are split up into multiple articles. An “NZB” is a file that can be imported into a newsreader and it searches for all the posts related to a specific article, downloads them, and reassembles them on your computer.

UsenetServer’s Global Search 2.0 works by helping users find the articles they want and putting together custom NZB files that will download those posts through their newsreader.

How is Usenet Organized?

Now that you have a provider, a newsreader, and Usenet search, you’re ready to dive into Usenet.

But how do you find what you want?

Fortunately, Usenet is organized in a way that makes it easy to look for discussions about your interests and find a community.

That organization is referred to as the “Big 8 Hierarchies”.

Newsgroups, at the highest level, are split up by topic based on whether they are related to computers, humanities, Usenet itself, recreation, science, social topics, debate, or a subject not covered by the previous ones.

There are also newsgroups that have been organized into the “alternative” hierarchy, which is not part of the Big 8 and is less regulated.

How to Find a Newsgroup

Let’s say that you want to talk about a science fiction novel and are looking for a newsgroup related to that.

Start with the “rec.” hierarchy, because reading books is a form of recreation. From there, you can refine your search to “rec.arts.” There are a lot of newsgroups that are related to artistic recreation, and as a result, you now have several options. “Rec.arts.books” is a very active newsgroup where you can certainly discuss science fiction, but will also find many other conversations about books in general.

A little more digging, however, and you might find “rec.arts.sf” for “science fiction” discussions, and more granularly, “rec.arts.sf.written.” This is a newsgroup created for discussions of written science fiction works and is likely to have the type of discussions that interest you specifically.

The same process can be used for any given interest. However, if you are using a search-enabled newsreader, you can also find appropriate newsgroups through the search feature, bookmark them, and regularly get updates on new posts to keep up on your conversations.

Bottom Line

Usenet can be a breeze if you take the time to find the right provider, newsreader, and Usenet search. At that point, jumping into the Usenet pool is as simple as choosing the newsgroups that interest you and becoming part of the conversation.

It doesn’t take a lot to master Usenet and maximize your time browsing newsgroups, so start learning today!