What is Usenet?

Usenet, a portmanteau of "user" and "network", is a world-wide distributed Internet discussion system. It evolved from the general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name.

It was conceived by Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis in 1979. Users read and post public messages (called articles or posts, and collectively termed news) to one or more categories, known as newsgroups. Usenet resembles bulletin board systems (BBS) in most respects, and is the precursor to the various web forums which are widely used today; and can be superficially regarded as a hybrid between Email and web forums. Discussions are threaded, with modern news reader software, as with web forums and BBSes, though posts are stored on the server sequentially.

One notable difference from a BBS or web forum is that there is no central server, nor central system owner. Usenet is distributed among a large, constantly changing conglomeration of servers which store and forward messages to one another. These servers are loosely connected in a variable mesh. Individual users usually read from and post messages to a local server operated by their ISP, university or employer. The servers then exchange the messages between one another, so that they are available to readers beyond the original server.