How to use Usenet

Since usenet is actually a huge, multi-location database of messages, you can’t just access it directly with an Internet browser like Safari or FireFox.  Something needs to read the database and assemble the records so humans can read them.  The software that does this is typically called a Newsreader.

A) There are two ways to get a newsreader:

  • Download a Usenet Newsreader program to your PC (or even your phone!) and run it the same way you run a browser
  • Subscribe to an online newsreader website that does all the database access remotely and creates web pages that you can access with a normal browser.  Sometimes this is called a Thumbnail Newsreader as attachments are usually displayed as thumbnails that can be clicked and downloaded directly.

Quite frankly, if you’re new to all this, we strongly suggest you just start with one of the online newsreader websites.  It will make it a lot easier for you to understand how the individual newsgroups are set up, what kind of messages and content are in each one, and just be less headache overall.  Running a newsreader locally gives you more control, but they can be a bear to set up correctly.

Once you have some way of reading the Usenet database, you’ll need to get access to a server that holds a copy of the database.

B) You need to sign up for a Usenet account.  

In the “old” days every ISP that offered internet service also kept a copy of the usenet database in its facility, and let its customers add and read messages from it.  Those days are over.  The volume got too big and the costs too high, so now only for-profit companies can afford to manage Usenet databases.  “Premium Newsgroup Providers” they are typically called – and reviewing Usenet providers is one of the primary things we do here at Anchordudes.

Again, in the “old” days, things like retention, completion, and speed were big issues – especially retention.  Disk space used to be much more expensive, and using the old “First in – First Out” principle, the databases had to be regularly purged of old records before new message records could be added.  Now disk is so cheap, bandwidth so available, and equipment reliability so high, that these are no longer the issues for the major providers (smaller providers still struggle with these issues though).  We have written some guides on evaluating providers on these issues, but to be truthful, if you stick with one of the big three providers they’re really not issues to worry about.

C) You may need a few more tools and file programs too

Because attachments can only be so large before causing overhead problems, most people who tack on binary files to their messages break them into smaller pieces using protocols like RAR, PAR, .001 (HSplit) and other file re-assembly tools.  In fact, these tools are used for other file transfers as well, and our quick-guides are accessed by users of all sorts of internet protocols.  We even offer recommend the best places to find drivers and programs to view and play usenet binary attachments.