Chapter 3: Usenet (1 of 5) -- What is Usenet?

     Usenet is the international meeting place, where people gather to
meet their friends, discuss the day's events, keep up with computer
trends or talk about whatever's on their mind.  Jumping into a Usenet
discussion can be a liberating experience.  Nobody knows what you look or
sound like, how old you are, what your background is.  You're judged
solely on your words, your ability to make a point.
     To many people, Usenet IS the Net. In fact, it is often confused
with Internet.  But it is a totally separate system. All Internet sites
CAN carry Usenet, but so do many non-Internet sites, from sophisticated
Unix machines to old XTs and Apple IIs.
     Technically, Usenet messages are shipped around the world, from host
system to host system, using one of several specific Net protocols.  Your
host system stores all of its Usenet messages in one place, which
everybody with an account on the system can access. That way, no matter
how many people actually read a given message, each host system has to
store only one copy of it. Many host systems "talk" with several others
regularly in case one or another of their links goes down for some
reason.  When two host systems connect, they basically compare notes on
which Usenet messages they already have.  Any that one is missing the
other then transmits, and vice-versa.  Because they are computers, they
don't mind running through thousands, even millions, of these comparisons
every day.
     Yes, millions.  For Usenet is huge.  Every day, Usenet users pump
upwards of 25 million characters a day into the system -- roughly the
equivalent of volumes A-E of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
     Obviously, nobody could possibly keep up with this immense flow of
messages.  Let's look at how to find messages of interest to you.

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