When friends ask us “What is Usenet?” we usually just sigh and point them to these pages… Usenet Newsgroups are quite simply the oldest operating Internet discussion forum platform. Right now there are well over 14,000 defined newsgroups (aka discussion forums), with about 800 that are truly active. Officially there are over 100,000 but most of those are empty or spam traps. Forums are filled with lots of discussion, and the cool part is that people can attach files to discussion, so there is a ton of binary content in most of the newsgroups. (alt.binaries.*) There is a defined hierarchy to the newsgroups, and every topic under the sun is represented – from indie music to pinball repair to porn. Actually, there’s a whole lot of porn.
How to get to Usenet? It doesn’t have a “www” address so to speak – usually you need to have a Usenet News Reader program on your computer and subscribe to a newsgroup server. Some of the newsgroup servers have a built in newsreader so you can get to Usenet with a browser without any special software, although you pay a bit more for these services. Most internet companies used to give usenet access for free, but now you have to sign up for a commercial provider. Sure, there are free newsgroup servers around, and most of the paid companies will give you a free usenet trial account, but for long term access to the good stuff, you’ll have to sign up for a monthly account. All the major newsgroup servers are interconnected, so they all have the same discussions and posts, so it doesn’t matter which on you connect to.
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We’ve been updating this FAQ for over 10 years now – We have lots of information pages for you to read through (see the links across the top), provider tables for you to scan, and detailed recommendations for you to consider. There are over 50 usenet providers out there, but the truth is, nearly every one of them is running off the backbone systems run by one of three companies (with 2 or 3 minor companies holding on by the skin of their teeth). We’ve tracked down who actually owns those 3 companies and figured out how they market their services directly. When it’s all said and done, the prices are the same when you buy direct from the service owners, so with a few exceptions, that’s who we recommend because there are the least number of middle-men to cause system and/or billing errors. Want to read our usenet provider rating philosophy?
We also have FAQ’s about how to read RAR, PAR and .001 files, how to find and use Usenet search index files (i.e. NZB files), and even some information about ourselves!
Click here for the detailed best usenet providers recommendation list – we go into detail about why this one over that one, etc. We also create a huge cross reference of ALL the Usenet companies and the backbone service they run off of.
Spend some time on our site, and when people ask you “What is Usenet?”, you’ll be able to knock their socks off!