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What is Usenet

Usenet is a collection of user-submitted notes or messages on various subjects that are posted to servers on a worldwide network. Each subject collection of posted notes is known as a newsgroup. There are thousands of newsgroups and it is possible for you to form a new one. Most groups are hosted on Internet-connected servers, but they can also be hosted from servers that are not part of the Internet. The original protocol was UNIX-to-UNIX Copy (UUCP), but today the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is used.

Usenet is mostly accessed via newsgroup readers, such as Outlook Express, that run as separate programs. Uncensorednewsfeed.com offers easy Web Browser access for those that are either new to Usenet or don't wish to use as newsreader.

USENET HISTORY

The idea of network ( Usenet ) news was born in 1979 when two graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, thought of using UUCP to connect machines for the purpose of information exchange among users. They set up a small network of three machines in North Carolina.

Initially, traffic was handled by a number of shell scripts (later rewritten in C), but they were never released to the public. They were quickly replaced by ``A'' news, the first public release of news software.

``A'' news was not designed to handle more than a few articles per group and day. When the volume continued to grow, it was rewritten by Mark Horton and Matt Glickman, who called it the ``B'' release (a.k.a. Bnews). The first public release of Bnews was version-2.1 in 1982. It was expanded continuously, with several new features being added. Its current version is Bnews-2.11. It is slowly becoming obsolete, with its last official maintainer having switched to INN.

Another rewrite was done and released in 1987 by Geoff Collyer and Henry Spencer; this is release ``C'', or C-News. In the time following there have been a number of patches to C-News, the most prominent being the C-News Performance Release. On sites that carry a large number of groups, the overhead involved in frequently invoking relaynews, which is responsible for dispatching incoming articles to other hosts, is significant. The Performance Release adds an option to relaynews that allows to run it in daemon mode, in which the program puts itself in the background.

The Performance Release is the C-News version currently included in most releases.

All news releases up to ``C'' are primarily targeted for UUCP networks, although they may be used in other environments as well. Efficient news transfer over networks like TCP/IP, DECNet, or related requires a new scheme. This was the reason why, in 1986, the ``Network News Transfer Protocol'', NNTP, was introduced. It is based on network connections, and specifies a number of commands to interactively transfer and retrieve articles.

There are a number of NNTP-based applications available from the Net. One of them is the nntpd package by Brian Barber and Phil Lapsley, which you can use, among other things, to provides newsreading service to a number of hosts inside a local network. nntpd was designed to complement news packages such as Bnews or C-News to give them NNTP features.

A different NNTP package is INN, or Internet News. It is not merely a front end, but a news system by its own right. It comprises a sophisticated news relay daemon that is capable of maintaining several concurrent NNTP links efficiently, and is therefore the news server of choice for many Internet sites.

Today, Usenet connects tens of thousands of sites around the world, from mainframes to PC's. With thousands of newsgroups and untold thousands of readers, it is perhaps the world's largest computer network.

Glossary of Usenet Terms

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