Usenet Terminology
The Terms Used When Discussing Usenet

When discussing Usenet there are many terms and phrases that often come up.
Some are obviously more confusing than others, but we’ve collected some of the more common terms here.

If you don’t find what you are looking for here please let us know! We’ll add the missing term so that it might help others in the future.


An article is a single message on Usenet. It’s similar to an e-mail message and can be posted to one or more newsgroups for others to see.

Big 8

The Big 8 (previously the Big 7) is a group of popular newsgroup hierarchies managed by the Big 8 Management Board. The Big 8 hierarchies are: comp.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.*, talk.*, and humanities.*. The hierarchy alt.* is not part of the Big 8, and was established separately as a place with fewer rules than the original Big 7.


Hierarchy is the method used for the naming of Usenet newsgroups. Because there are so many groups that cover so many topics, they are initially sorted by hierarchies such as “comp”, “sci”, “soc”, or “alt”. These are used at the beginning of the newsgroups name to show that groups are generally related to others in the hierarchy.


A Usenet newsgroup is a discussion group containing messages related to the topic of the group. Generally newsgroups have names that describe their topic, for example the newsgroup contains discussions related to television shows.


A newsreader is software that you run locally on your computer. It connects to a Usenet service such as UsenetExpress, allows you to read and post articles.


Similar to a vast message board. Usenet is a worldwide distributed discussion system where e-mail like messages are categorized and stored by topic.


A method for encoding binary data as plain text allowing it to be stored in a message.