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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)
                9  Usenet (Network News) and the TCP/IP Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP)
                     9  Usenet Overview, Concepts and General Operation

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Usenet Overview, Concepts and General Operation
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Usenet Overview, History and Standards
(Page 1 of 3)

We are by nature both highly social and creative animals, and as a result, are always finding new ways to communicate. It did not take long after computers were first connected together for it to be recognized that those interconnections provided the means to link together people as well. The desire to use computers to create an online community led to the creation of Usenet over two decades ago.

History of Usenet

Like almost everything associated with networking, Usenet had very humble beginnings. In 1979, Tom Truscott was a student at Duke University in North Carolina, and spent the summer as an intern at Bell Laboratories, the place where the UNIX operating system was born. He enjoyed the experience so much that when he returned to school that autumn, he missed the intensive UNIX environment at Bell Labs. He used the Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol (UUCP) to send information from his local machine to other machines and vice-versa, including establishing electronic connectivity back to Bell Labs.

Building on this idea, Truscott and a fellow Duke student, Jim Ellis, teamed up with other UNIX enthusiasts at Duke and the nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to develop the idea of an online community. The goal was to create a system where students could use UNIX to write and read messages, to allow them to obtain both technical help and maintain social contacts. The system was designed based on an analogy to an online newsletter that was open to all users of a connected system. To share information, messages were posted to newsgroups, where any user could access the messages to read them and respond to them as well.

The early work at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill resulted in the development of both the initial message format and the software for the earliest versions of this system, which became known both as Network News (Net News) and Usenet (a contraction of User's network). At first, the system had just two computers, sharing messages posted in a pair of different newsgroups. The value of the system was immediately recognized, however, and soon many new sites were added to the system. These sites were arranged in a structure to allow messages to be efficiently passed using direct UUCP connections. The software used for passing news articles also continued to evolve and become more capable, as did the software for reading and writing articles.

The newsgroups themselves also changed over time. Many new newsgroups were created, and a hierarchical structure defined to help keep the newsgroups organized in a meaningful way. As more sites and users joined Usenet, more areas of interest were identified. Today there are a staggering number of Usenet newsgroups: over 100,000. While many of these groups are not used, there are many thousands of active ones that discuss nearly every topic imaginable, from space exploration, to cooking, to biochemistry, to PC troubleshooting, to raising horses. There are also regional newsgroups devoted to particular areas; for example, there is a set of newsgroups for discussing events in Canada; another for discussing happenings in the New York area, and so on.


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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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