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Lesson 6 Searching Internet Newsgroups
Objective Utilize Usenet discussions as Information Sources

Utilize Usenet discussions as Information Sources

In an earlier lesson, you learned that the part of the Internet called Usenet, and its discussion groups ("Newsgroups"), contained information that you can search. There are both advantages and disadvantages to searching in Newsgroups for information:
  1. Advantages: Posting a message takes much less time than creating a Web site or updating information on an existing site; you can often read of something in a Newsgroup days before it shows up on a key site. This can be helpful, for example, in keeping up-to-date on new viruses or Internet hoaxes.
  2. Disadvantages: In most cases, Newsgroups are unmoderated; no one checks the correctness or truth of what is contained in a posting. Postings can, and do, contain gossip, rumors, and unverified "facts." Some messages are posted for the purpose of deception or a prank.


USENET is the largest news group on the Internet outside of social networks. USENET was originally created in 1979 by graduate computer science students at Duke University and the University of North Carolina as an alternative to the ARPAnet, which many students and researchers contended was too restrictive. USENET evolved into hundreds of subject groups, arranged hierarchically. Examples are
  1. alt (alternative),
  2. humanities (fine art, literature, and philosophy),
  3. sci (the sciences), and
  4. soc (sociology and social concerns).

USENET groups evolved into one of the most vibrant areas of intellectual, cultural, and recreational discourse on the Internet. They have recently been subsumed by a commercial search engine, but remain fully functional, and searchable, including the archives. They contain a plethora of extremely unique information, but some care should be exercised since identity and informational claims are not verified. Even with these limitations, USENET represents one of the most underused research tools on the Internet. There are currently many other mail and newsgroups, many of them managed by commercial interests.

Virtual space arose in 1979 with the creation of multiuser dialog software, originally created for gaming interests, and USENET. USENET and bulletin board systems represented a leap in Internet popularity and information sharing. The 1980s saw the growth of networks dedicated to various research groupings, such as NFSNET and BITNET. Internet relay chat was developed in 1988
Still, Newsgroups devoted to users of a particular software program or computer chip or peripheral, particularly if sponsored by the manufacturer, are useful as a source of tips and solutions to common problems. Other Newsgroups are forums for suggestions and recommendations on purchasing computer hardware and software, choosing an Internet Service Provider, an auto mechanic, a hotel in Venice, or the best fish for an aquarium. As long as you understand that anyone can post and some posters may have a vested interest behind their comments, Newsgroups can augment information you locate through search services.
The following MouseOver demonstrates a Usenet search with

Searching Internet Newsgroups - Exercise

Click the Exercise link below to practice searching in Usenet Newsgroups.
Searching Internet Newsgroups - Exercise