Usenet News is a global electronic bulletin board system in which millions of computer users exchange information on a vast range of topics. The major difference between Usenet News and e-mail discussion groups is the fact that Usenet messages are stored on central computers, and users must connect to these computers to read or download the messages posted to these groups. This is distinct from e-mail distribution, in which messages arrive in the electronic mailboxes of each list member.
Usenet itself is a set of machines that exchanges messages, or articles, from Usenet discussion forums, called newsgroups. Usenet administrators control their own sites, and decide which (if any) newsgroups to sponsor and which remote newsgroups to allow into the system. A good directory of Usenet groups can be found at Tile.Net.
There are thousands of Usenet newsgroups. These range from academic to recreational topics. Serious computer-related work takes place in Usenet discussions. A small number of e-mail discussion groups also exist as Usenet newsgroups.
The Usenet newsfeed can be read by a variety of newsreader software programs. For example, the Netscape suite comes with a newsreader program called Messenger. Newsreaders are also available as standalone products.
Usenet is not as popular nowadays as it once was. Blogs and RSS feeds are newer modes of communication that have caught the interest of Internet users. These technologies are covered in Understanding the World Wide Web.