The Usenet world can be quite tricky, especially if you’re just taking your first steps. As such we have created this glossary thinking not only about starters but about all those who may encounter a term they have never heard before either. If you’re a regular VPN user then you may also have encountered some of the following words since the two worlds of VPN and Usenet are inherently connected. But nonetheless, there are just as many specific to the Usenet scene, too. Be sure to pay extra close attention, though, since some Usenet providers may use different variations of the same term. So without further ado, let’s clear those doubts of yours so making the most of the Usenet can become more of a joy and less of a pain.
The Usenet is divided into different hierarchies, with the so-called Big-8 (comp, humanities, misc, news, rec, sci, soc and talk) typically highlighted from the start. These are administered by a volunteer organization called the Big-8 Management Board and they basically dictate the way the Usenet is shaped. In other words, these are subject to defined procedures for the creation of every new newsgroup, which in turn are always created inside one these hierarchies.
Usenet files are divided in two categories: binary and text. The first one refers to a type of file containing binary data and not just text, which can include images, sound clips and more.
Crossposting is the action of posting an article to more than one newsgroup. It is usually done when an article or post is applicable to two or more newsgroups. These articles are then called crossposts.
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Flame is usually used for articles in which someone criticizes another person or protests noisily about something. If used as a verb, to flame means to post something (for example an article) with the intention of annoying Usenet users. That same article can then become a so-called flame war or, in other words, when a group of people argue – or flame – one another repeatedly.
Just like the name indicates and similar to emails, a header is a section within an article often located at the beginning of every message containing technical information in the form of single header lines. Information includes the newsgroup it was posted to, the date it was created, the author, and more.
Another term given away by its name: hops are the steps data needs to take when travelling from the Usenet server to your computer. The fewer hops along the path the faster your connection and downloads will be.
IHAVE is a type of Usenet feed used by servers to exchange articles.
Short for Internet Protocol version 4, this is one of the core protocols of the internet. IPv4 is a connectionless protocol and the most commonly used today, despite having originally been created back in 1983. In IPv4 each IP address is 32 bits long, making it simpler to remember and allowing systems to use less memory and programming. However, its lifetime is coming to an end .
This one might be a little obvious after following IPv4, and unsurprisingly IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol version 6. Because it was designed to replace its predecessor (IPv4) this one is safer and has far more capacity since every IP address is 128 bits long. However, it’s not yet fully implemented which means that many networks are still incompatible with it.
ISP stands for Internet Service Provider: the company responsible for supplying you with internet access to whom you pay at the end of the month. These are companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Charter and many others. In order to even begin with the Usenet you’ll absolutely need an internet connection, so finding the ISP that suits you best is your first top priority.
Latency can be divided into two more specific terms: one way latency or round trip latency. While the first one refers to the time that internet packets take to go from point to point (your computer and the network) the latter refers to the time it takes for those same packets to come back. The higher the latency the slower downloads will be. Low bandwidth levels or too many hops in the connection are just some of the factors causing high latency.
Also called a news client, a newsreader is a type of program you will need to install on your computer to be able to access the Usenet via the NNTP protocol (explained below). There are text-specific newsreaders and others built for both text and binary files. Many email clients can be used as newsreaders such as Microsoft’s Outlook Express or Mozilla’s Thunderbird, while some Usenet providers even offer their own newsreader.
As the name indicates, a news server is the system that holds and manages the articles on the different newsgroups. It’s usually a normal computer designed specifically for the Usenet network, which means its performance is dependent on hard drive storage, processor speed, available capacity and other independent factors just like any other computer. Some Usenet providers use larger news server infrastructures called clusters. These ensure a better performance, redundancy, and availability of the Usenet network.
A newsfeed is the service offered by a Usenet news server: the articles posted. Therefore, it can also be used as a synonym for news server or NNTP server.
Newsgroup is the term used to refer to the Usenet discussion groups. The name comes from the creation of the Usenet itself back in 1979 since it was created as a means of passing news messages between two universities in North Carolina and the name has remained ever since. Newsgroups are inserted in the different hierarchies that the Usenet is composed of.
Newsgroups in the Usenet are organized according to a well-defined hierarchy. That hierarchy begins by highlighting the Big 8 and as you explore further down the hierarchy to find a certain newsgroup you’ll see that each one belongs to that hierarchy path, as shown in any given newsgroup’s name. For instance, if you see a newsgroup called talk.music you’ll know it’s inserted in the talk hierarchy.
NNTP is the short form of Network News Transfer Protocol, the protocol upon which Usenet is based and the one that is used most to distribute Usenet articles. To access the Usenet via NNTP you’ll require a newsreader.
NZB is a file format that stores the output of a Usenet search engine for retrieving posts from servers. NZB files are stored in XML .
P2P (peer-to-peer) is a distributed computing architecture and the ultimate purpose of the Usenet, to share different types of content and files between users with the same program as you. P2P has a lot of infamy thanks to its use in illegal torrent piracy cases that have led to it being considered a crime in certain countries.
PAR2 is the second version of a type of file that is quite common among the Usenet community. It is used for parity files by the Parity Archive Volume Set system. Think about these as fragments of a larger file. For instance: whenever a binary file is posted on the Usenet a number of parity files are posted, too. If the original file is too big you may miss some of the data when downloading and this is where parity files come into play. Using PAR2 files manager programs such as QuickPar, you can ‘glue’ the missing data (parity files) together and recreate the complete binary file, which will be identical to the original.
Peers are the end-user computers composing a P2P network.
Depending on your Usenet provider, when connecting to a server you may have the option to choose a number of ports. The most common ones are ports 119 (unencrypted, your ISP can see your downloads) and 563 (encrypted, invisible to ISPs), although some providers also offer port 463, which is also encrypted.
Posts are just another synonym for articles. In other words, posts are contained inside the newsgroups and shared by users. A post can include text or any other binary information.
The name is quite self-explanatory on its own: propagation refers simply to the wide distribution of articles or posts from one news server to another.
The term ‘pull’ is used for news feeds where the Usenet server uses a master server that is owned and run by another entity to download articles (as in “pulling an article”).
RAR is the most common file format you’ll find in the Usenet. It is used to share large multipart binary files and before it’s used it must be decompressed and assembled using programs such as WinRAR and others.
Usenet systems have designated computers that are used to allow end users to post and download articles from the Usenet network. These are the reader servers and can also be inserted into the so-called server clusters.
Sometimes also called retention rate, this is one of the main things you should look for in a Usenet provider. Retention is the time that any content is available on the Usenet servers and it is usually measured in days. For instance, if you pick a provider with 1,000 days of retention, this means that you’ll be able to access all articles and their respective attachments for 1,000 days. In the same measure, any article you publish will remain visible for that same 1,000 days, and after the retention period those articles will expire.
Rot-13 is an encoding system which uses a replacement cipher in which each letter of the alphabet is swapped in 13 positions to make offensive posts become imperceptible. For instance, if you go onto the Usenet but you don’t want to face a certain kind of content – even by accident – you can tune your newsreader to encode that kind of content, therefore hiding it.
Although you shouldn’t come across this term that often, you should know that it means the same as “connections”. The Usenet works on an upload/download basis and those connections between you and the servers are the streams. Providers may advertise their newsreaders as having multiple concurrent streams or, in other words, the ability to enjoy fast downloads while performing other tasks in the Usenet at the same time.
T1 stands for tier 1 and you’ll typically see this associated with providers. In turn, providers can be divided into two categories: tier 1 Usenet providers and Usenet resellers. Therefore, T1 providers are independent, meaning they own their servers and control the network themselves. They can then also choose whether to sell part of their network to resellers.
Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a security protocol that provides data encryption and authentication. It is often misused as TLS/SSL although the latter is actually the predecessor of TLS. TLS is ultimately impenetrable to dangerous attacks since it features the strongest ciphers and encryption methods.
You’ll see this acronym being used in different contexts, which can cause its meaning to change. In the most traditional way it stands for User Datagram Protocol, which is one of the parts of the so-called Transport Layer. As the name indicates, the Transport Layer is used to transport data to the servers. The internet is a world of communication between computers and servers. The data travels on the internet in packets and this is where UDP comes in. Because it doesn’t feature any sort of error correction when sending the data packets, UDP is very fast but is also much less reliable than other protocols that require packet receipt confirmation.
However, in the context of Usenet in particular it stands for Usenet Death Penalty, and is used whenever one or more Usenet providers refuse to share articles with one another.
VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network, a much needed tool nowadays. In order to enjoy the benefits of a VPN, you’ll need to choose one of the many VPN providers that work best in conjunction with Usenet to reinforce your security and privacy. VPNs allow a great level of comfort and security since they are able to overcome geographical blocked content while your connection is always secured and protected with military-grade encryptions and strong protocols. Find out more about these in our VPN FAQ.
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We provide answers to any of your Usenet related questions in our series of frequently asked questions: