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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  TCP/IP Key Applications and Application Protocols
           9  TCP/IP File and Message Transfer Applications and Protocols (FTP, TFTP, Electronic Mail, USENET, HTTP/WWW, Gopher)

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TCP/IP World Wide Web Electronic Mail Access
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Usenet Overview, Concepts and General Operation
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Usenet (Network News) and the TCP/IP Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP)

Electronic mail is one of the “stalwarts” of message transfer on the modern Internet, but is really designed only for communication within a relatively small group of specific users. There are many situations in which e-mail is not ideally suited, such as when information needs to be shared amongst a large number of participants, not all of whom may necessarily even know each other. One classic example of this is sharing news; the person providing news often wants to make it generally available to anyone who is interested, rather than specifying a particular set of recipients.

For distributing news and other types of general information over internetworks, a messaging system called both Usenet (for user's network) and Network News was created. This application is like e-mail in allowing messages to be written and read by large numbers of users. However, it is designed using a very different model than e-mail, focused on public sharing and feedback. In Usenet, anyone can write a message that can be read by any number of recipients, and can likewise respond to messages written by others. Usenet was one of the first widely-deployed internetwork-based group communication applications, and has grown into one of the largest online communities in the world, used by millions of people for sharing information, asking questions and discussing thousands of different topics.

In this section I describe Usenet in detail, discussing in two subsections how it is used and how it works. The first subsection covers Usenet in general terms, discussing its history and the model it uses for communication and message storage and formatting. The second describes the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), the protocol currently used widely to implement Usenet communication in TCP/IP.

Many people often equate the Usenet system as a whole with the NNTP protocol that is used to carry Usenet messages on the Internet. They are not the same however; Usenet predates NNTP, which is simply a protocol for conveying Usenet messages. Usenet old-timers will be quick to point this out, if you try to say Usenet and NNTP are the same on Usenet itself. J This is one of the reasons why I have separated my discussion into two subsections. In the overview of Usenet I do briefly discuss the methods other than NNTP that have been used in the past to move Usenet messages, but since they are not widely used today I do not place a great deal of emphasis on them.

Background Information: There are several aspects of how Usenet works that are closely related to the standards and techniques used for e-mail. I assume in this section that you have basic familiarity with how e-mail works. If you have not read the section on e-mail, please at least review the overview of the e-mail system, and also read the section on the e-mail message format, since Usenet messages are based directly on the RFC 822 e-mail message standard.


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