What is a Newsreader?


The newsreader, also known as a news client, is Usenet’s version of a web browser. You use a newsreader to search for newsgroups and articles on Usenet servers. There is much more variation in the capabilities of newsreaders than there is in the capabilities of web browsers, however. Newsreaders specialize in downloading certain types of files. Also, some newsreaders require a subscription. We explain the main types of newsreaders and how they work.


Newsreader Origins

When it was first established, Usenet was set up to exchange messages. Graduate students at Duke built Usenet using the Unix-to-Unix Copy Protocol to manage the distribution of messages. Usenet was one of the earliest attempts to use the internet for a mass audience. That audience was limited to researchers at universities, large corporations, and government labs, but it was a big step at the time. ARPANET, Usenet’s predecessor, was restricted to only a handful of locations and, due to its connection to the U.S. Department of Defense, emphasized security over flexibility and user experience. Usenet, therefore, was a necessary evolution.

Usenet today roughly resembles a mixture of email and web forums. People post messages in newsgroups and other users respond to those messages. This post-response process forms threads. Messages may be posted in reply to a particular post, but they are visible to all. Messages have headers like the headers you are used to seeing on emails. The newsreader organizes newsgroups and manages the exchange of messages for you.


Text Articles, Binaries, and the Usenet Community

Most traditional newsreaders allow you to send and receive messages. These messages are distributed to anyone who follows the newsgroup they are posted in. These newsreaders are still largely focused on text. You can still access binaries in some cases, but at the heart of most of these newsreaders are newsgroup discussions. This requires users to invest time in reading articles, commenting, and getting to know the different newsgroups. When you follow a newsgroup, new articles will automatically upload into your newsreader when you sign-on.

Newsgroups are organized by the theme and subject. The name of a newsgroup names tell you a lot about what is going on inside. Generally, newsgroups stick to the topics in the newsgroup’s name. There are moderated groups that enforce this, but even unmoderated groups generally stay on topic. However, nothing can substitute for actually reading through newsgroups. It is time-consuming, but fun. You get to know the different authors and can even make requests or ask specific questions.

Ultimately a newsreader allows you to access the Usenet community. The Usenet community is massive, widespread, and holds a wealth of knowledge. Other users can help guide you around Usenet and find other people and posts you may be looking for. However, there is also a way of using Usenet that focuses only on binaries.  

A big difference between many newsreaders and web browsers is that with a newsreader, you cannot always search for individual posts. When you do a keyword search in a newsreader, you are searching for the keyword in the name of newsgroups. Some of the more cutting-edge newsreaders, like the Newshosting Usenet Browser, do feature more advanced searching capabilities and function similar to web browsers. Traditional newsreaders, however, solely focused on newsgroups. Thus, alternative binary-focused newsreaders were born.


NZB Only Newsreaders

There are a number of newsreaders that only function with NZBs. You cannot use these newsreaders to read articles or exchange messages. NZBs put all of the pieces of a binary into a machine-readable markup language (XML). Newsreaders that support NZBs can then automatically download those messages, putting them together again. These newsreaders eliminate the need to browse newsgroups for users who have no desire to do so. They also eliminate the need to search inside of threads and individual messages for posts. Such newsreaders make finding binaries a lot easier.

This fundamentally changes the Usenet experience. If you use an NZB newsreader, Usenet is no longer about community or articles. You can simply locate the NZBs you need and never interact with other users. For many, this does not seem problematic. However, downloads from NZB only newsreaders are not without nuance.

Threads and messages provide an important check on the quality of binaries. Users can flag incomplete binaries on Usenet. You can also alert posters about problems with their binary posts or even request binaries. Also, keep in mind that the numbering system used to give binary messages unique IDs comes with its own intricacies. NZBs rely on these unique IDs, which are found in the headers of messages. If the ID is wrong or changes, then the NZB will not work. However, if you are following the newsgroup that the binary was posted to, it is very easy to correct this problem.

NZBs can help you find binaries quickly, but there is no guarantee about their quality or if they will work. If you are using an NZB-only newsreader, you may run into some difficulties. That’s why using a newsreader with traditional newsgroup functionality and NZB compatibility, like Newshosting Usenet Browser, is best.


Newshosting Usenet Browser

As established, there are two main types of newsreaders. One type gives you access to articles and community. The other specializes in helping you find locate binaries. Thankfully, Newshosting has combined the two types to create a hybrid, robust newsreader. With the Newshosting Usenet Browser, you get the best of both worlds. The Newshosting client comes with complete access to newsgroups and the Usenet community. It is also compatible with NZBs. This means users don’t have to prioritize one type of Usenet experience. Rather, they can experience all Usenet has to offer in one place.



What Is Retention?


It’s easy to forget that all internet data has to be physically stored somewhere. Despite its name, “the Cloud” exists on servers, not in the sky. When you consider the massive amount of data that comprises the internet, you can begin to understand just how much time and money is invested in storage technology. Usenet is no exception. The messages, articles, and binaries that you see on Usenet have to be stored on servers. Retention is how we quantify that data storage.

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What Is the Right Number of Usenet Connections?

Usenet Connections

Usenet is a lot like the World Wide Web, but it has a few features without an analogous World Wide Web concept. When configuring server settings in your newsreader, you may be prompted to enter or adjust the number of connections. New users may be perplexed by this prompt. Connections are crucial to maximizing newsreader efficiency, though, so it’s important that you utilize them properly. We explain what connections are, how to set the optimal number of connections, if there is a magic connections number, and how to troubleshoot connection issues. Continue reading