Usenet is collection of online discussions that are organized into newsgroups. Users may create their own discussion topics or contribute to existing threads within a topic. Some newsgroups provide forums for questions and answers, while others are designed primarily for file sharing.

Usenet started in 1980 as a medium for discussing topics online, similar to a bulletin board system (BBS). However, instead of being hosted on a single server, Usenet newsgroups were hosted on hundreds of servers across the world. As the Internet grew in popularity, so did Usenet, extending online discussions to countries around the globe.

While Usenet was designed for text-based discussions, it evolved to support file sharing as well. Today, Usenet is commonly used to distribute files (or "binaries" since the files may contain any type of binary data). Examples include videos, songs, pictures, and software programs. Usenet downloads commonly have an .NZB extension, which is an XML file that describes one or more locations where the actual file can be downloaded.

Usenet data is transmitted over the Network News Transfer Protocol. Access to Usenet is available through a number of different Usenet providers, typically for around $10 USD per month. Examples include Usenet Storm, Newshosting, and Astraweb, among many others. Some services offer web-based tools to access and contribute to newsgroups, but you can also use a newsreader, such as Newsbin, Agent, and Pan.

Updated February 8, 2018 by Per C.

quizTest Your Knowledge

Which of the following standards was superseded by HTML5?

Correct! Incorrect!     View the XHTML definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of Usenet on this page is an original definition written by the team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.