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 Alt Binaries, 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: March 25, 2017