Internet Basics: What Are Newsgroups And How Do You Use Them?

This article provides a summary of what newsgourps are and how to get started using them.

When you go on the Internet, you get a choice of a number of different media to use for your research. You are probably familiar with email, chat, discussion boards, and Web pages, but you might not be so sure about what an Internet newsgroup is.

Actually, Internet newsgroups are just another type of online media. They are less frequently used nowadays than they used to be, due to the fact that they're very prone to spam, but they do still exist. Most newsgroups center on a specific subject, and they can be sparse with very few postings, or they might be hopping and busy with several thousand posts a day.

Newsgroups are very similar to Internet discussion boards in feel and interaction. Users visit the newsgroup, post questions, reply to other posts, and interact with another as on a discussion board. The difference between the two is that newsgroups don't exist on a single website - they're sort of like a cross between email and discussion boards. Websites do exist that allow you to access Internet newsgroups, but you can also access them through a number of email clients, browsers, and some mobile devices.

Newsgroups can be an interesting way to get a wide variety of opinions on your area of interest, but one negative aspect as previously mentioned is that newsgroups are common targets of spam. Some rooms will be worse than others, but it's not uncommon to browse a newsgroup and see the spam posts outnumbering the legitimate posts. If you find this to be the case with the newsgroup you are reading, you may want to consider using a discussion board instead - since most discussion boards have a moderator to remove spam postings.

If you think you want to try out some Internet newsgroups, the leading provider of them is Usenet. However, the best place to browse Internet newsgroups with a minimum amount of setup is to visit a site like Google Groups. Through Google Groups, you can browse all the different available Usenet groups, which range in subject matter from business to humanities to science to general news. Click on the subject that interests you and browse to find a specific newsgroup.

If you find a newsgroup that you want to read regularly, or perhaps become an active member, then you don't necessarily have to go through Google Groups to read it. You can set up your mail client to read newsgroups. One of the easiest to set up is Outlook Express. If you type the address of the group you want to read, which is formatted as "news:[address]", replacing [address] with the address of the group you want to read, Internet Explorer will launch a configuration wizard to set up Outlook Express to read your newsgroup. You do need one piece of information from your ISP, which is the ISP's newsgroup server, in order to read newsgroups this way. If you don't have the information handy, you should be able to get it with a quick phone call or a visit to the ISP's website.

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