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Usenet Glossary / Usenet Terminology

Usenet is a complex system, and there are many technical terms and abbreviations you will need to master in order to understand and use it effectively. To help you, I have created this glossary, containing definitions for the most important Usenet-related words you are likely to encounter.

Most the terms in this glossary are explained, in which cases you will see a link [tutorial]. For more information, just click on the link and you will be taken to the exact place in the tutorial where that particular term is discussed.

Note: The glossary currently contains 140 definitions.

A


alt: The name of the alternative hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to a wide variety of miscellaneous topics. For example, the newsgroup alt.celebrities is for discussing celebrities and well-known people. See also alternative hierarchies.  [tutorial]

alternative hierarchies: One of five traditional hierarchies, distributed around the world which, unlike the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchies, do not use standardized procedures for creating new groups. As a result, most of the unmoderated newsgroups within the alternative hierarchies suffer from a great deal of spam. The alternative hierarchies are alt, bionet, bit, biz and k12. Compare to mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

archive: A single file that contains a collection of one or more compressed files. Programs to be downloaded are stored as archives to make the downloading process faster and simpler. After an archive is downloaded, it must be unpacked. See also multipart binary, RAR file and WinRAR.

article: Within Usenet, a message sent to a discussion group. Same as a posting.  [tutorial]

attach: To include a file as part of a Usenet article, such that the file is posted to the newsgroup along with the text of the message.  [tutorial]

attachment: A file that is combined with a Usenet article, such that the file is posted to the newsgroup along with the text of the article.  [tutorial]

B


Big-8 hierarchies: The eight most important Usenet hierarchies, distributed around the world, that are subject to well-defined procedures for the creation of new newsgroups. Administered by a volunteer organization called the Big 8 Management Board. Also called mainstream hierarchies. The Big-8 hierarchies are comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk. Compare to alternative hierarchies.  [tutorial]

binary: Slang for a binary file.  [tutorial]

binary data: Any data that is not text.  [tutorial]

binary file: A file that contains binary data. Often referred to as a binary. Compare to text file.  [tutorial]

binary system: A mathematical system, based on powers of 2 (such as 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on), used by computer scientists and programmers to work with computer memory.

Binverse One of the top-tier Usenet providers. Binverse provides proprietary software integrated with their own Usenet search facility that simplifies finding and downloading files. Binverse is also known for offering a free trial to all new customers. See also Usenet provider.  [More info]

bit: The smallest unit of data storage; there are 8 bits in 1 byte. Mathematically, bits are represented by quantities that can have a value of either 0 or 1. The name "bit" stands for "binary digit". See also byte.

bits per second: The unit of measurement used to describe the speed of an Internet connection. Abbreviated as bps.

body: The main part of a Usenet article, containing the text of the article. See also header.  [tutorial]

bogus: Describes a newsgroup that has a name but does not really exist, or is not used in a meaningful way. There are many bogus newsgroups within the alt hierarchy.  [tutorial]

bps: Abbreviation for bits per second. The unit of measurement used to describe the speed of an Internet connection.

byte: A unit of data storage consisting of 8 bits. Each byte can store a single character. See also bit, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte, and terabyte.

C


charter: A detailed statement explaining the purpose of a newsgroup and how the newsgroup is to be used.  [tutorial]

client: A program that requests a service of some type, usually over a network. A program that provides such services is called a server. With Usenet, the client is called a newsreader and the server is called a news server. See also client/server system.  [tutorial]

client/server system: Describes a system in which programs called clients request services from other programs called servers, usually over a network. The Internet is comprised of many different client/server systems, for example, the Web, Usenet, email, and so on. With Usenet, the client is called a newsreader, and the server is called a news server. With the Web, the client is called a browser, and the server is called a Web server.  [tutorial]

comp: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to computer-related topics. For example, the newsgroup comp.lang.java.help is for questions and answers related to Java programming. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

completion: With respect to a specific Usenet server, a measure of the number of articles the server is storing. Completion is expressed as a percentage representing the number of articles stored divided by an estimate of the total number of available articles. For example, if a Usenet provider's server stores 90 percent of all available articles, that server has 90 percent completion. (Please be aware that this is just an estimate. No one actually knows the exact number of all available articles.)  [tutorial]

completion rate: Same as completion.  [tutorial]

connection: A communication link between a Usenet client (newsreader) and a remote server (news server). Many Usenet service providers allow multiple connections at the same time, which can make for much faster downloading. Sometimes called a session.  [tutorial]

control message: A short message with a special header line that acts as an instruction to a news server. A control message tells the server to perform a specific task, for example, to create a new newsgroup, remove an existing group, or delete a specific message.  [tutorial]

cross-post: To post an article to more than one newsgroup. [tutorial]

D


Date (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that contains the time and date the article was posted. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

download: To copy a file from another computer to your computer.

E


Easynews One of the top-tier Usenet providers. Easynews is known for high-quality service, fast connections, a free trial to all new customers, and an easy-to-use Web-based interface. See also Usenet provider.  [More info]

emoticon: Same as a smiley.  [tutorial]

expire: With respect to a Usenet article, to delete the article after it has been stored on a news server for a particular amount of time. For a particular server, the time after which articles expire is called its retention.  [tutorial]

F


FAQ: (Frequently Asked Question list) A list of questions and answers about a particular topic, written for people who are are learning about that topic. Many newsgroup have FAQs that were written specifically for newcomers to that particular group.  [tutorial]

flame:

  1. An article in which someone criticizes another person or complains vociferously (that is, a real stinker).  [tutorial]
  2. [verb] To post such an article.

flame war: A situation in which a group of people flame one another repeatedly.  [tutorial]

follow-up: An article that was written in reply to a previous article.  [tutorial]

From (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that the contains the name and address of person who posted the article. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

G


GB: Abbreviation for gigabyte.

gigabyte: A unit of measurement used for computer memory and data storage, 1,073,741,824 (230) bytes. Informally, a gigabyte is about 1,000,000,000 (a billion) bytes. Abbreviated as GB. See also byte, kilobyte, megabyte, and terabyte.

group: A Usenet discussion group. Same as newsgroup.  [tutorial]

H


Harley Hahn's Usenet Center: A Web site devoted to using and understanding Usenet. Harley Hahn's Usenet Center contains a detailed tutorial, a master list of Usenet newsgroups, a quick start guide, as well a great deal of Usenet-related reference information.  [tutorial]

Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups: An annotated list of the most important Usenet newsgroups. Harley Hahn's Master List of Usenet Newsgroups enables you to search for the newsgroups you want, either by keyword or by category. It is the only such list on the Internet.  [tutorial]

Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages: The best-selling Internet book of all time, published in print form for 10 years by Harley Hahn. Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages was a large, comprehensive guide to life, annotated with Internet resources, including Web sites and Usenet newsgroups. The book contained thousands of items, organized into 193 different categories. Today, the online version of Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages can be accessed for free on the Harley Hahn Web site.  [tutorial]

header: Within a Usenet article, a standard section at the beginning of every message that contains technical information in the form of individual header lines. See also body.  [tutorial]

header line: A single line within the header of a Usenet article. The most important header lines are the following: From (name and address of person who posted the article), Newsgroups (groups to which the article was posted), Subject (the subject of the article), Date (the time and date the article was posted), Organization (the organization from which the article was sent), Lines (the number of lines in the message, not counting the header).  [tutorial]

hierarchy: Within Usenet, one of the top-level categories into which newsgroups are organized. The first part of a newsgroup name shows the hierarchy to which the newsgroup belongs. For example, the newsgroup rec.humor is in the rec hierarchy.  [tutorial]

humanities: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to literature and the fine arts. For example, the newsgroup humanities.classics is for discussions related to the culture of ancient Greece and Rome. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

I


incomplete: Describes a multipart binary file for which all the data has not been downloaded. The parchive system was created to enable users to deal with incomplete files by recovering the missing data. See also multipart binary, parchive and par2 file.

[the] Internet : The worldwide, general-purpose, communication and information system, based on the TCP/IP family of protocols. See also TCP/IP.

J


JPEG: Same as JPG.

JPG:

  1. (from "Joint Photographic Experts Group") A file format commonly used to store photographs. For example, a file containing a photo of a cat named Little Weedly, might be called weedly.jpg. Pronounced "jay-peg".
  2. Informally, a file containing a photograph in JPG format. For example, "My friend sent me a 'jay-peg' of his cat playing the piano."

K


KB: Abbreviation for kilobyte.

kill file: A special file used by a newsreader to indicate that certain articles are to be discarded automatically. For example, if you don't want to see any articles posted by a person named Fester Bestertester, you can use a kill file to tell your newsreader to never show you such articles. The exact format of a kill file depends on the specific newsreader.

kilobyte: A unit of measurement used for computer memory and data storage, 1024 (210) bytes. Informally, a kilobyte is about 1000 bytes. Abbreviated as KB. See also byte, kilobyte, gigabyte, and terabyte.

L


Lines (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that shows the number of lines in the message, not counting the header. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

M


mainstream hierarchies: The eight most important Usenet hierarchies, distributed around the world, that are subject to well-defined procedures for the creation of new newsgroups. Also called the Big-8 hierarchies, because they are administered by a volunteer organization called the Big 8 Management Board. The mainstream hierarchies are comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk. Compare to alternative hierarchies.  [tutorial]

MB: Abbreviation for megabyte.

megabyte: A unit of measurement used for computer memory and data storage, 1,048,576 (220) bytes. Informally, a megabyte is about 1,000,000 (a million) bytes. Abbreviated as MB. See also byte, kilobyte, gigabyte, and terabyte.

misc: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to topics that to not belong in any other mainstream hierarchy, that is, miscellaneous topics. For example, the newsgroup misc.creativity is for discussing creativity with respect to any type of human endeavor. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

moderated: Describes a newsgroup for which a person, called the moderator, controls which articles are allowed to be posted to the group. One of the important advantages of a moderated newsgroup is that there is no spam.  [tutorial]

moderator: A person who controls which articles are allowed to be posted to a specific newsgroup. Such a newsgroup is said to be moderated.  [tutorial]

multipart binary: A large binary file, broken up into parts, each of which is posted separately. At the receiving end, the various parts of a multipart binary are gathered and reassembled back into the original file. See also archive. [tutorial]

multipart posting: Same as multipart binary. [tutorial]

N


Netnews: Same as Usenet.  [tutorial]

[the] News : Same as Usenet.  [tutorial]

news: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to Usenet itself. For example, the newsgroup news.newusers.questions is for questions and answers for new Usenet users. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

news feed: The service offered by a Usenet news server. Often used as a synonym for news server or NNTP server.  [tutorial]

news server: A server that stores Usenet articles and files, and makes them available via a newsreader (Usenet client program). See also client, server and client/server system.  [tutorial]

Newsbin A widely used, powerful newsreader (Usenet client program), particularly well suited to processing binary downloads in the form of NZB files and RAR/PAR files. Newsbin offers a free trial, so you can try it to see if you like it. See also newsreader, PAR file and RAR file.  [More info]

Newsdemon One of the top-tier Usenet providers. Newsdemon is known for high-quality service, an excellent reputation, fair prices, and for offering a free trial to all new customers. See also Usenet provider.  [More info]

newsgroup: A Usenet discussion group. Usenet was created in 1979, in order to pass news messages between two universities in North Carolina. Although it has been a long time since Usenet was used for news, Usenet discussion groups are still referred to as newsgroups.  [tutorial]

Newsgroups (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that the contains the names of the newsgroups to which the article was posted. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

newsreader: A client program used to access Usenet. See also client, server and client/server system.  [tutorial]

NFO file: A small text file containing information about another, larger posting. Since NFO files contain only plain text, they can be read with any text editor, such as the Notepad program that is included with Microsoft Windows. An NFO file is often posted along with a multipart binary file in order to describe the contents of the binary. For example, a musician who posts a multipart binary containing an album of his music, might also post an NFO file with information about the various songs. Hint: Many NFO files use punctuation characters to draw boxes and create other designs. However, this only works if you are using a monospaced font, such as Courier. If you are looking at an NFO file and you see a lot of funny characters that are obscuring the text, change the viewing font to Courier. See also multipart binary.

NNTP: (Network News Transfer Protocol) The protocol used to distribute Usenet articles. See also protocol.  [tutorial]

NNTP server: Same as news server.  [tutorial]

NZB file: A text file that holds the output of a Usenet search engine, specifically, information about articles that meet specific criteria. Information in an NZB file is stored in XML format. See also XML. [tutorial]

O


ob: A prefix used to indicate that something is obligatory. For example, within the newsgroup rec.humor, it is the custom to put at least one joke within every article. If someone posts an article which discusses something that is not funny, it is expected that he or she will also include a joke. Such a joke is referred to as an Objoke (obligatory joke).  [tutorial]

Organization (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that contains the name of the organization from which the article was sent. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

organizational hierarchy: A hierarchy containing newsgroups that are of interest primarily to people concerned with a particular organization, for example, a university or a company. For example, the ut hierarchy is for newsgroups related to the University of Toronto; the microsoft hierarchy is for newsgroups related to Microsoft and its products.  [tutorial]

P


PAR file: The old file format used for parity files by the parchive system. Replaced by PAR2 files. See also parchive.

PAR2 file: The file format used for parity files by the parchive system. See also parchive.

parchive: (Parity Archive Volume Set) A system used to enhance the reliability of posting and downloading multipart binaries. When a multipart binary file is posted, a number of special parity files are also posted. At the receiving end, if some of the data is not received or is incorrect, the parity files can be used to recover the missing data and create a complete binary file identical to the original. The current version of parchive (version 2) uses "PAR2 files". The older, obsolete version of parchive (now referred to as version 1), used "PAR files". The most widely used program for managing PAR2 files is QuickPar. See also multipart binary, parity file, par2 file, par file, and QuickPAR.

parity file: A file used for checking other files for missing or incorrect data. Parity files are often included when data is uploaded to a server. At the receiving end, a special program can use the parity files to determine if the downloaded data is incorrect or incomplete. If so, the parity files can, in many cases, be used to fix the problem. See also parchive, par2 file, and par file.

post: To send an article to a Usenet newsgroup.  [tutorial]

posting: Within Usenet, a message sent to a discussion group. Same as an article.  [tutorial]

propagate: With respect to a Usenet article, to be distributed widely by being copied from one news server to another.  [tutorial]

protocol: A specification (set of technical rules) used by client and server programs to communicate with one another. The protocol used by Usenet clients and servers is NNTP: Network News Transfer Protocol.

Q


QuickPar: A widely used freeware program that creates and manages parity files in PAR2 format. See also parity file, parchive, and par2 file.

quote: To include all or part of an original Usenet article within a reply.  [tutorial]

R


RAR file: The file format most widely used to distribute multipart binaries on Usenet. RAR files are archives that act as containers, storing one of more files in compressed form. Once a RAR file is downloaded, it must be unpacked in order to be used. If the RAR file is large enough to be posted as a multipart binary, the various parts must be assembled before the RAR file can be unpacked. The most common program used to create and unpack RAR files is WinRAR, which is available for all popular operating systems. See also WinRAR and archive.

rec: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to recreation, hobbies, and arts. For example, the newsgroup rec.parks.theme is for discussions about all types of theme parks. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

regional hierarchy: A hierarchy containing newsgroups that are of interest primarily to people in a particular country, city or other region. For example, the ca hierarchy contains newsgroups related to California; the japan hierarchy contains groups related to Japan.  [tutorial]

reply:

  1. An article in response to a previous article.
  2. [verb] To send such a message.

retention: With respect to a specific Usenet server, the amount of time for which the server keeps data. Retention is typically measured in days. For example, if a server has a retention of 400 days, it means that all articles (including their attachments) are kept for 400 days, at which time the articles expire.  [tutorial]

RFD: (Request For Discussion) A proposal that initiates the discussion as to whether or not to create a new newsgroup.  [tutorial]

retention rate: Same as retention.  [tutorial]

rot-13: A simple scheme used to encode potentially offensive text so that people are not bothered by it accidentally. When you look at rot-13 encoded text, it looks like gibberish. If you want to read it, all you have to do is tell your newsreader to decode it back into the original text. The rot-13 coding scheme uses a simple replacement cipher in which each letter is rotated 13 positions within the alphabet. For example, an, bo, cp... mz, na, ob, pa... zm. The rot-13 encoded text for "Harley is a fine guy" is "Uneyrl vf n svar thl".

S


sci: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to science and technology. For example, the newsgroup sci.chem is for discussions about chemistry. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

search engine: A program that can search a very large database for specific information. See also Usenet search engine.

secure connection: A facility used to transmit data, in which the data is encrypted as it is sent and decrypted as it is received. See also SSL.

server:

  1. A program that offers a service of some type, usually over a network. A program that requests such services is called a client. The term "server" is also used to refer to the computer upon which the server program is running. With Usenet, the server is called a news server, and the client is called a newsreader. See also client/server system.  [tutorial]
  2. A computer on which a server program is running.

session: A communication link between a Usenet client (newsreader) and a remote server (news server). Many Usenet service providers allow multiple connections at the same time, which can make for much faster downloading. Same as connection.  [tutorial]

signal-to-noise ratio: An informal measure of the worthiness of a particular newsgroup. A newsgroup that typically contains many interesting or useful articles is said to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. On the other hand, if someone says that a group has a low signal-to-noise ratio, he is saying that, in his opinion, few of the articles posted to that group are worth reading. The term is borrowed from electrical engineering, where "signal-to-noise ratio" refers to the power of a signal compared to the power of the noise. The higher the ratio, the better.

signature: A small amount of information, stored in a signature file, that is automatically appended to the end of outgoing Usenet articles. Typically, a signature will contain information such as a name, email address, or Web site address. Some people put interesting sayings or quotations in their signatures.  [tutorial]

signature file: A file, containing a signature, whose contents are automatically appended to the end of outgoing Usenet articles.  [tutorial]

smiley: A series of characters, such as :-) or :), that looks like a sideways face, indicating that what you are saying should not be taken as being offensive.  [tutorial]

soc: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to social and cultural issues. For example, the newsgroup soc.feminism is for discussions of feminism and women's issues. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

spam: Unsolicited advertisements or inappropriate messages posted to a Usenet newsgroup.  [tutorial]

spammer: A person or company that sends spam.

spoiler: A statement about a book, movie or play that gives away the ending or reveals a surprise.  [tutorial]

SSL: (Secure Sockets Layer) A protocol used to provide secure connections over the Internet. See also secure connection.

Subject (header line): Within the header of an article, the line that contains the subject of the article. See also header and header line.  [tutorial]

subscribe: To indicate to your newsreader that it should add a specific newsgroup to the list of groups you want to read. See also unsubscribe.  [tutorial]

T


talk: The name of the mainstream (Big-8) hierarchy containing newsgroups devoted to debate and controversial topics. For example, the newsgroup talk.environment is for debate about the environment. See also mainstream hierarchies.  [tutorial]

TB: Abbreviation for terabyte.

terabyte: A unit of measurement used for computer memory and data storage, 1,099,511,627,776 (240) bytes. Informally, a terabyte is about 1,000,000,000,000 (a trillion) bytes. Abbreviated as TB. See also byte, kilobyte, megabyte, and gigabyte.

text: Data consisting of characters such as the letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation, and so on. Compare to binary data.  [tutorial]

text file: A file that contains text. Compare to binary file.

TCP/IP: The family of protocols used to run the Internet. (TCP/IP is pronounced as five separate letters, "T-C-P-I-P".)

thread: A sequence of related articles consisting of an original article, and all subsequent replies to that article or to other replies. [tutorial]

Thundernews One of the top-tier Usenet providers. Thundernews is known for offering fast, reliable Usenet service at a fair price, with extremely good customer service. See also Usenet provider.
[More info]

traffic: A measure of the average number of articles sent to a mailing list. Same as volume.

troll: To scan a large amount of ever-changing data, looking for a specific type of information. For example, spammers use programs that troll Usenet newsgroups looking for mail addresses.

U


unsubscribe: To indicate to your newsreader that it should remove a specific newsgroup from the list of groups you want to read. See also subscribe.  [tutorial]

unzip: To unpack a zip file.

upload: To copy a file from your computer to another computer.

Usenet: A vast, worldwide system of discussion and file sharing groups. Same as the News, Netnews.

Usenet: A vast, global system of discussion and file sharing groups. Usenet has over a hundred thousand different groups and millions of participants around the world. Usenet was created in 1979 to pass news messages between two universities in North Carolina. Although it has been a long time since Usenet was used for news, it is still referred to as the News or, less often, Netnews. Usenet is much older than the Web; the first primitive ancestor of the Web was not even released until 1991.  [tutorial]

Usenet provider: A company that provides people with access to a Usenet server. Most Usenet providers charge a small monthly fee for their service.  [tutorial]

Usenet search engine: A service that searches through Usenet newsgroups to find specific content. Usenet search engines can be used to search for anything, but they are most often used to search for binary files. For example, you might search for photos of a famous person. Searching Usenet is not nearly as easy, as powerful, or as fast as searching the Web, because there are no general-purpose, free Usenet search engines. See also search engine.  [tutorial]

Usenext: One of the top-tier Usenet providers. Usenext provides proprietary software integrated with its own Usenet search facility that simplifies finding and downloading files. Usenext is also known for offering a free trial to all new customers. See also Usenet provider. [More info]

UUencoding: (Unix to Unix encoding) A system used to encode binary data as text, suitable for posting within an Usenet article, and then decoding the data back into the original text. For many years UUencoding was used extensively on Usenet to transport binary data within Usenet articles. Today, UUencoding has been replaced by the more efficient yEnc system.  [tutorial]

Usenet service provider: Same as Usenet provider.  [tutorial]

V


volume: A measure of the average number of articles sent to a mailing list. Same as traffic.

W


Web-based discussion groups: Discussion groups that exist on Web sites. Often referred to as forums or message boards. Compared to Usenet groups, Web-based discussion groups, are less permanent, with a much smaller audience and a lot less variety. Moreover, the quality of the discussion is not nearly as good, and they are not suitable for file sharing. Web-based discussion groups, however, are easier to access, as you can use a regular browser (such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari) instead of having to learn how to use a complicated newsreader program. [tutorial]

WinRAR: A widely used program that creates and manages compressed archives in RAR format. WinRAR is available for all popular operating systems. See also RAR file and archive.

X


XML: (Extensible Markup Language) A general-purpose specification used to transport and store data. The results of a Usenet search engine are typically stored in an NZB file in XML format. XML was designed to be both general and powerful enough, so that it is possible to share information between different computer systems, applications, or organizations without requiring multiple layers of conversion. See also NZB file.  [ tutorial]

Y


yEnc: A system used to encode binary data as text, suitable for posting within an Usenet article, and then decoding the data back into the original text. yEnc was created and released into the public domain in 2001, by a programmer named Jürgen Helbing. Within a short time, yEnc became the binary encoding system of choice, replacing the older, less efficient UUencoding system. [tutorial]

Z


zip file: A file or archive (set of files) that is compressed using the "zip" format. Zip files have an extension of zip, for example, harley.zip, and must be unpacked by a special program called a zip file program. See also archive.

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