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Usenet and Newsgroups

Usenet is an international discussion network that can be accessed via the Internet. It is composed of thousands of newsgroups that are divided up into hierarchies by subject. When accessing newsgroups, you can view or post your own articles pertaining to the subject of that newsgroup.

It is easy to mistake newsgroup posts for e-mail at first glance. Most e-mail programs also have newsgroup capabilities, so the difference between newsgroup articles and e-mail may be hard to see for new users. The key difference is that Usenet is completely public. While it is not likely that a third party will view a private e-mail that you send out to a friend, any posts made to Usenet are sent through dozens of networks and likely to be viewed by thousands of other people reading the newsgroup you posted to.

So, newsgroups and e-mail are actually two very separate types of communication, run over different protocols through different types of networks. The fact that they tend to look alike at first glance is merely because software companies tend to bundle newsgroup and e-mail capabilities for ease of use.

What Do I Need To Access Newsgroups?

You will need software known as a newsreader. You most likely already have one on your computer. Netscape and Outlook Express both bundle newsgroup functions in with their programs. There are also many programs available for download on the internet such as Forté Free Agent that are strictly newsreaders, made specifically for reading newsgroups. Due to the large amount of programs that exist for the Internet, RPA is only able to offer technical support for the most commonly used ones: Netscape and Outlook Express. However, you are free to browse Usenet with whatever program you wish. We have included instructions and settings at the following links:

Configuring Outlook Express 5.0 for Newsgroups
Configuring Outlook Express 4.0 for Newsgroups
Configuring Netscape Collabra for Newsgroups

Before you dive in, please take a few minutes to read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) For Usenet. This FAQ was compiled to help new users get involved in the complex entity that is Usenet.

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