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Usenet and Newsgroups
News on the Internet is carried in a system of ``newsgroups''. All these newsgroups together are called Usenet. Nobody controls Usenet. Nobody is in charge. It just happened. It's an anarchy. Usually, it's a functioning anarchy. And it's the greatest, most open flow of information this planet has ever seen.

There are thousands of different newsgroups, on every imaginable subject (and some that defy the imagination). You don't want to read them all. You don't even want to read the list of them all. (Okay, maybe you do. But not more than once.)

Each item in a newsgroup is called an "article." It can also be called a "message," a "post," or a "posting." Placing an article in a newsgroup is also called "posting," and the person who posts an article may be called the "poster."

Newsgroup Names

Each newsgroup has a descriptive name, made up of words separated by periods. Some newsgroup names get rather long. For instance, one of the most popular groups is This translates to "recreational group, about games, about fantasy roleplaying games (frp), miscellaneous topics."

The newsgroup ``hierarchies'' are:

  • rec -- Recreational subjects. Games, sports, hobbies.
  • sci -- Scientific subjects.
  • comp -- Computer-related subjects. Lots of them ...
  • news -- Specifically news items (at least, that's the theory).
  • soc -- Social issues and topics.
  • talk -- Conversation. Chat. Often, pure babble.
  • misc -- Anything that doesn't fit in the above six categories.
There are also ``alt'' (for alternate) groups. Anybody with enough Deep Net Knowledge can create an alt group. New ones appear all the time. Usually they get a few postings and then languish, but some last indefinitely. Some are serious; some are outrageous; some are just silly. Check out alt.conspiracy, or alt.purple.dinosaur.die.die.die. Or Or (if you're of legal age, and not easily shocked) anything that begins with ""

And there are local newsgroups. Almost every city has local groups ... for instance, in Austin, where IO is headquartered, there are groups like,, and so on.

Last but not least, there are system-specific newsgroups, intended only for the users of that system. Illuminati Online has a lot of these groups (which we call ``conferences'', to distinguish them from the Usenet newsgroups that everyone can read). They all begin with io -- like,, io.admin, and so on.

More About News

Illuminati Online's News FAQ
information on news reading specific to IO.
Choosing Newsgroups
how to decide which ones you want to read.
Choosing a Newsreader
picking the program that will be best for you.
Accessing News from Offsite
configuring popular newsreaders for remote NNTP access.
filtering out the junk articles so you never have to look at them.
Posting News
how to put your own messages on the newsgroups.
Generic Flame Form
the standard DOs and DON'Ts.
Usenet isn't perfect. If you're new to the net, read this!
For more general information on Usenet news and newsgroups in general, see the News chapter in EFF's (Extended) Guide to the Internet.

Last revised August 29, 2000