Usenet

NNTP, Not Just for Usenet

Many NNTP servers are not part of Usenet. You may be familiar with Gmane [3], which serves as an archive for thousands of FOSS mailing lists. A little known fact is that Gmane has an NNTP interface. You can browse Gmane's mailing list archives just like a newsgroup by connecting with an NNTP client and subscribing to the desired newsgroup. You may also post messages to the newsgroup, and they will be forwarded to the mailing list. Check out the news.gmane.org news server.

Usenet's Current Status

If you spend time browsing newsgroups, you will realize that the signal to noise ratio is very bad (see the "Warnings for Adventurers" box). As mentioned before, this problem can usually be solved with the application of message filters, which discard the content you don't want to see. However, configuring a good set of filters probably requires more effort than the average user is willing to invest. This is a pity, because the technology has its benefits. Maintaining a discussion on Usenet is much faster than using a web forum, and things are better organized and categorized.

Warning for Adventurers

Usenet is a largely unmoderated environment. Some newsgroups are moderated, which means that any published post must be approved by an administrator assigned to that newsgroup. Most often, however, newsgroups do not require approval.

This can lead to some groups being flooded by spam, rants, off-topic messages, and so on. It is safe to say that Usenet is for adults only.

News admins will remove messages that are against their servers' terms of service and block users if need be. Many administrators have very lax policies and won't act against anything that is legal or does not compromise the service. Needless to say, in jurisdictions that allow free speech, almost anything goes.

Gmane is the main reason today to use NNTP. You can follow your favorite FOSS mailing lists in a clean and tidy way, without the need to subscribe to a mailing list manager like Majordomo or Mailman.

The Author

Rubén Llorente is a mechanical engineer whose job is to ensure that the security measures of a small clinic's IT infrastructure are both legally compliant and safe. In addition, he is an OpenBSD enthusiast and a weapon collector.

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