The Usenet – an alternative to the World Wide Web

The Usenet – an alternative to the World Wide Web

The Usenet – an alternative to the World Wide Web

The aim of this article is to inform the reader about the Usenet (Unix User Network), giving a brief overview about its possible usages and explaining some of the key elements that characterize it.

What is the Usenet?

The Usenet is an electronic, worldwide network, consisting of so called newsgroups. While it might not be known by many internet users today, the Usenet actually is older than the internet and can be seen as an alternative to it. An internet connection, however, still is necessary to access the Usenet.

Usenet newsgroups

Newsgroups work somehow similar to discussion forums on the web, in a way that users can post and reply to messages on different topics. Through this way of discussing, big discussion trees (so called threads) developed over time. A virtually unlimited amount of threads about all kind of topics can be found on the Usenet in many different languages.

Special kinds of newsgroups are the binary newsgroups, which can be used to share binary files through the Usenet. The difference to other file sharing services like BitTorrent is that files are not shared peer-to-peer, but instead are stored on news servers. This way files uploaded once can be downloaded by an unlimited number of people, taking advantage of their full download-bandwith.

How can I access the Usenet?

To access the Usenet, it is necessary to use special newsreader software. While accessing the Usenet has been rather complicated before, newsreaders allow an easy access to and handling of the Usenet. They also help the user to efficiently browse and search the Usenet to find exactly the topic or file they are looking for.

Newsreader software for download and additional information can be found at, an information source around the topic Usenet, available in six different languages.