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A newsgroup (also spelled news-group) is

[a]n electronic discussion group, serving as a bulletin board for users to post universally accessible messages, and to read and reply to those from others.[1]
[a] type of discussion forum implemented as a message archive replicated across servers. Messages are retrieved and posted by news clients communicating with servers using the network news transfer protocol (NNTP).[2]
an online forum for USENET users to discuss, read about, or post messages on a particular topic. News-groups are commonly organized around a particular shared interest, such as science fiction or politics.[3]

How newsgroups work[]

Newsgroups are large messaging systems that consist of text messages and encoded files (e.g., pictures, sounds, movies, programs) organized into categories of interest with multiple subcategories and topics. The Usenet, which is the Internet network where newsgroups are structured, hosts hundreds of thousands of newsgroups at any given time.

The news service provider, usually the user's ISP, determines the newsgroups avail­able on any particular news server. Free news servers also are available but usually pro­vide access to a limited number of newsgroups. Subscription news servers are available that provide access to an unlimited number of newsgroups.

Newsgroups currently operate using the Internet and a protocol, or a set of operating specifications, known as Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP). This protocol is similar to the e-mail protocol (SMTP). Newsgroup servers are computers that usually are interconnected and store newsgroup messages for distribution to users. Users can participate passively by reading the contents of the group postings, or partici­pate actively by posting or requesting information from other users.

Some newsgroups are moderated and therefore cannot be posted to by individuals — articles posted to them must be mailed to a moderator who will post them for the submitter. In an unmoderated newsgroup, the message is posted directly without editing. The majority of newsgroups are unmoderated.

Usually newsgroups are accessed via a special program called a newsgroup "client" or "reader." Some browsers and e-mail clients also contain newsgroup readers. Examples of newsgroup readers include —

  • FortéAgent/Free Agent
  • Outlook®/Outlook Express®
  • Netscape

Major newsgroups[]

Major newsgroups include:

  • alt: "Alternative" discussions on a wide variety of topics.
  • comp: Computer-related information and discussion.
  • misc: "Miscellaneous" categories.
  • news: Issues concerning USENET and newsgroups
  • rec: Recreational activities, such as movies, books, sports, etc.
  • sci: Science news and information.
  • soc: Topics related to sociology and psychology.
  • talk: USENET's version of talk radio.


  1. Religious Technology Ctr. v. F.A.C.T.Net, Inc., 901 F. Supp. 1519, 1524 n.4 (D. Colo. 1995) (full-text).
  2. EU Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs, Glossary of Technical Terms in the Field of Electronic Democracy 7 (Jan. 20, 2009) (full-text).
  3. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1074, n.2 (9th Cir. 2004).