Newsgroup Options When Your ISP Does Not Subscribe To Usenet

As you may (or may not) know, Usenet is not, strictly speaking, a part of the Internet, but a parallel computer network which can often be accessed through an ISP (Internet Service Provider). Usenet, itself, is composed of Newsgroups (topical forums) which reside on mainframe computers often located at universities or govenment agencies around the world and linked together to form the network. The names "Usenet" and "Newsgroups" are often used interchangeably, but both are really misnomers. It would be more accurate to refer to this area as "public access e-mail" or "public-access bulletin boards" where people with interests in common post "mail" or "articles" for anyone else who has access to the group to read and reply to. There are about 50,000 groups organized by topic and direct access to this area requires a separate network server which not all ISP's subscribe to. Even if they do, the number of groups they carry are sometimes limited to a fraction of the whole spectrum.

Fortunately, there are several other ways of accessing Usenet, either for free or for a nominal fee, and the following should be enough to get you started.


Supernews, the successor to remarQ, is a server which is located on the World Wide Web and is accessed though a browser like the one you're using now. It's a membership based service with subscription fees starting at US$13.95 per month.

To "subscribe" to a group, you first locate it via the menu or search engine on the homepage and then bookmark the URL in your browser like any other web page. To return to that group in the future, bypass the homepage by clicking on the selected newsgroup in your bookmarks (favorites) and go there directly.

Either way, Supernews allow you to post articles yourself, as well as read those posted by others.

Other "pay-for-news" servers include:

Public Access News Servers

There's another option which resembles what the your IPS's Usenet server would look like if it were actually installed. These are Public Access News Servers, also known as Open NNTP Servers or Free News Servers. Lists of these servers are available on the Web by using any popular search engine (Google, DuckDuckGo, and so on) and doing a search using any of those phrases. Personal experience suggests that most of these lists are out of date, with up to 90% of their addresses and specifications being incorrect.

Some public access servers that are actually verified as working are:

In order to subscribe to a free server and read articles, you'll need to install a Newsreader, such as Free Agent. A selection of freeware and shareware Newsreaders is available for download from Tucows.

Searching Usenet

If you're looking for past articles, Google Groups (formerly Deja News) is a search engine which limits its function to searching newsgroups using keywords or phrases..

Pros/Cons and More Information

Generally speaking, the "pay-for-news" servers are reliable options, but like any other websites their downloads are affected by the speed of your connection, the amount of traffic on the Net, etc. Plus, you have to pay for their services.

On the other hand, free access servers really are cost free, the groups they carry are easy to subscribe to, and they often provide high-speed downloads which may be faster than web-based servers. However, their policies often change without warning. For example, I used to use the server called (maintained by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). It hosted over 10,000 newsgroups and allowed posting. One day, after a year of trouble-free service, I opened it to discover that most of the groups would not display. After this this happened for a couple of days, I deleted the server and then reloaded it from scratch. To my surprise, it now only hosted about 50 groups, all of which related to Chinese or Korean culture! As another example, the once popular originally carried many "alt." groups of a general (non-sexual) nature, but as of June, 1996, all of the "alt." newsgroups were dropped without explanation and a month later access to the server disappeared altogether. A more important consideration for many, though, is that free servers carry far fewer groups than Supernews and their colleagues and generally do not allow posting. However, if targeted news is what you crave, check out the list of Specialized Public NNTP News Servers.

Finally, for those who want more information about how the whole Usenet system works, try subscribing to those groups which begin with the "news." prefix, such as news.announce, news.questions, and news.answers. These are maintained by the committee which oversees this domain.

Return to: The Vinyl Tourist Visits The Internet.

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