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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  TCP/IP Key Applications and Application Protocols
           9  TCP/IP File and Message Transfer Applications and Protocols (FTP, TFTP, Electronic Mail, USENET, HTTP/WWW, Gopher)
                9  Usenet (Network News) and the TCP/IP Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP)
                     9  Usenet Overview, Concepts and General Operation

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Usenet Communication Model: Message Composition, Posting, Storage, Propagation and Access
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Usenet Addressing: Newsgroups, Newsgroup Hierarchies and Types
(Page 2 of 4)

The "Big Eight" Newsgroup Hierarchies

One problem with the “decentralized, anarchistic” nature of Usenet is ensuring coordination in certain areas where we want everyone to be on the same page; one of these is newsgroup naming. If we let just anyone create a newsgroup, we might well end up with many, even dozens of groups that all discuss the same topic. Imagine that someone had a question on data cabling and didn't realize that comp.dcom.cabling existed, so they created a new group called comp.datacomm.cabling. The two groups could coexist, but this would lead to both confusion and fragmenting of the pool of people interested in this topic.

To avoid this problem, many of the administrators of large Usenet systems collaborated on a system for organizing many of the more commonly-used Usenet groups into eight hierarchies, and devised a specific procedure for creating new newsgroups within them. There is a actually a long history behind how this came about; these are today called the Big Eight Usenet hierarchies, and are summarized in Table 263.

Table 263: Usenet “Big Eight” Newsgroup Hierarchies




Newsgroups discussing computer-related topics, including hardware, software, operating systems and techniques.


Groups discussing the humanities, such as literature and art.


Miscellaneous topics that don't fit into other Big Eight hierarchies.


Groups discussing Usenet itself and its administration.


Recreation topics, such as games, sports and activities.


Science newsgroups, covering specific areas such as physics and chemistry, research topics and so forth.


Society and social discussions, including groups on specific cultures.


Groups primarily oriented around discussion and debate of current events and happenings.

These eight hierarchies contain many of the most widely-used groups on Usenet today. For example, professional baseball is discussed in, Intel computers in and Middle East politics in talk.politics.mideast.

The Big Eight hierarchies are rather tightly controlled in terms of their structure and the newsgroups they contain. The process to create a new Big Eight newsgroup is democratic and open; anyone can propose a new group and if there is enough support, it will be created by the cooperating system administrators who agree to follow the Big Eight system. However, this creation process is rather complex and time-consuming. Some people find this unacceptable and even object to the entire concept of this restricted process; others consider it advantageous, as it keeps the Big Eight hierarchies relatively “orderly” by slowing the rate of change to existing newsgroups and the number of new groups added.

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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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