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What are newsgroups?

When people want to share some information or opinion with other people on a given topic, they can send each other mail. When the number of people participating in the discussion becomes large, the messages are sent and stored on computers serving whole sites rather than to individual users. Each topic has its own newsgroup and users at each site can browse through any of them. The system that distributes the articles of each newsgroup is called Usenet. It ensures that each sites has received a copy of every article posted anywhere on the network.

The name of a newsgroup is indicative of its topic. The major sets of newsgroups which are distributed globally start with the words comp (for computer), soc (social), rec (recreation), or alt (alternative).

Many newsgroups maintain an archive called FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which contain answers to common questions which have appeared in articles in the past. Such archives can be found in various locations (one such location).

Warning

The reader is warned against taking anything posted on Usenet all too seriously. People posting articles present their opinions without reservations, hidden behind a terminal. Their articles do not represent any official position by either countries or employers posters are affiliated with.

Technical Note

URLs for newsgroups start with news: followed by the name of the newsgroup. If you have not accessed a Usenet newsgroup before, you might need to instruct your browser which host to use as its news server. Most often the computer name needed is of the form news.xxx, where xxx is your Internet provider's domain name.
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