Usenet in 2019


Back in the 80’s, before the actual world wide web was even thought of, people could still communicate over the Internet using a wide range of protocols such as e-mail, gopher, and usenet, or newsgroups as they are commonly known.

usenet uses the NNTP (Network News Transfer protocol) which is described in RFC 3977.   I think newsgroups were a pre-cursor to things like e-mail mailing lists,  provided by software such as GNU / Mailman.

You can still access newsgroups through some ISPs.  However support has been dropping over the years.  I have recently discovered a free NNTP service from a post on the Debian users mailing list so decided to check this out.

This service is provided by Eternal-september  You do however need to register for a free account, once done you have access to a full range of groups, otherwise you just have access to a few.   Registration is free however.

In order to access newsgroups you generally need a client,  thankfully software such as Mozilla Thunderbird has built in support for usenet.   Instructions are on the website along with full information.

Some groups have messages going back a few years but the traffic level is pretty low compared to what it used to be.  As a result there are not actually many messages, with some of the less popular groups, even with a list going back to 2012.

Nevertheless, it is a good idea to perhaps limit how many messages the client downloads. As you can see there are a few exceptions to what I said earlier.

I am using Thunderbird client here.;  On a technical note you need to ‘add other’ under account settings when adding a new account you are then presented with the dialogue to choose newsgroups.

Technical info for usenet

Server name: Please see website.
Port : 119 (NNTP)
Port : 563 (encrypted connection NNTPS)



With this server you get access to a limited set of newsgroups unless you authenticate.  If you are using Thunderbird you need to set it up so it asks for authentication.

You should find the settings under the server -> server settings then tick Always request authentication.  Go back to the list of groups and select refresh.   You will need your user name and password then you were sent when registering.

Something that has recently come up is how to reply to threads, by default pressing reply will reply to the SENDER of the message, in order to reply to the group you need to select follow up.