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A newsgroup is a repository of digital messages posted by users, and generally managed by the Usenet system.

Usenet is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. Established in 1990, Usenet is similar to a bulletin board system (BBS) in many ways and is a precursor to the Internet forums that are in use today. Discussions are threaded, as they are in BBS and Internet forums, but they are stored on the server sequentially.

The chief differentiating point between a Usenet newsgroup and a BBS or Internet forum is the absence of a central server and dedicated administrator. Rather, Usenet is distributed along a constantly changing network of servers that store and forward messages to one another in news feeds. Participating users read messages on a local server operated by a commercial Usenet provider, their Internet Service Provider, university, employer, or their own server, and can make replies.

In the 1990s, before public access to the Internet became widespread, Usenet connections were made through Fidonet's dialup BBS networks, which required only a local telephone service.

Before the World Wide Web, Usenet groups were the most popular Internet services and remain popular, only among a smaller network of users. However, newsgroup discussions have lost large numbers of potential users to Internet forums and social networks.

There are two types of newsgroup formats, binary and text, which allows users with limited facilities to minimize network bandwidth.

Although newsgroups were not intended to distribute images, video, or sound, the technology has proven to be effective in doing so. Newsgroups that encourage these are known as binary newsgroups, while text newsgroups are restricted to textual messages.

Messages sent for publication to a newsgroup are known as posts. Most newsgroups are focused on a specific topic, and members tend to discourage off-topic posts, although some newsgroups consider anything that a member wants to discuss to be on-topic. The administrator of a news server (news admin) determines how long a post is kept on a server before being deleted, so some servers will have longer retention times for the same newsgroup.

Newsgroups vary in popularity. Many are inactive, and others receive fewer than a dozen posts a year, while the most popular ones can get several thousand posts in an hour.

Most newsgroups are not moderated, except perhaps by other users who will express displeasure over off-topic or inappropriate posts. In moderated newsgroups, one or more assigned moderators must approve posts before they are published.

In order to make it easier for users to find related groups, newsgroups are usually arranged into hierarchies. There were seven original major hierarchies of Usenet newsgroups: comp, news, sci, rec, soc, talk, and misc. In the order previously given, these discussed computer-related topics, Usenet itself, scientific topics, recreational activities, social issues, potentially contentious issues, and anything that didn't fit into the other hierarchies. Several others have since been created, including non-English newsgroups.

Newsgroups are commonly associated with Usenet, but non-Usenet newsgroups also exist, set up by private individuals, organizations, or companies.

Websites that are focused on newsgroups are appropriate for this category, including the networks that distribute these discussions.



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