What Is Usenet? The Big 8 Newsgroup Hierarchies

What Is Usenet

Many people have heard of Usenet, but not as many understand exactly what it is and what you can do with it. Usenet allows you to search for and access articles on different topics. Users can also communicate with others within these newsgroups. While Usenet offers you access to millions of articles, most of them are divided into eight newsgroup hierarchies. Here are the Big 8 newsgroup hierarchies on Usenet.


Comp.* hierarchy covers computer-related topics. Some article topics that you may find within computers on Usenet include software, hardware, technology, and programming questions. You can find a good mix of computer-related topics that appeal to both professional and hobbyist Usenet users.


Humanities.* wasn’t originally a part of the Big 8 (previously referred to as the Big 7). As the number of Usenet users increased, moderators added the humanities category. Within humanities, you’ll find articles on topics like religion and spiritualism. Other categories within humanities include history and philosophy.


Miscellaneous or misc.* is a commonly used newsgroup within Usenet because it covers article topics that don’t fit well within the other categories. You’ll also find topics that span across multiple categories within the miscellaneous category. A few things that you might find within the miscellaneous newsgroup on Usenet include FAQs, for-sale items, general conversation, and user tips.


One of the biggest newsgroups on Usenet is the news.* hierarchy. Initially, this group started out as a newsgroup where users could learn about the recent updates and news of Usenet. More recently, it has also come to cover other news-related topics. The news newsgroup is the place to go if you have any questions or want to access articles related to Usenet. You can find information on choosing the most affordable Usenet provider or newsreaders here, too.

You can also use the news section to learn more about tips to keep your information secure when browsing Usenet. Cybersecurity should be a priority, whether you’re searching articles via the Internet or Usenet, and you can find trending topics and issues within this category to ensure you’re safe.

Recreation and Entertainment

The recreation or rec.* hierarchy also covers entertainment topics. This is the hierarchy to visit within Usenet if you want to access articles related to the arts, music, hobbies, and entertainment. Some of the most popular recreation and entertainment topics on Usenet within this category include college and professional football, poker, online gaming, and video games. You can also find less common recreational topics on Usenet, including sewing, crafting, pinball, or even woodworking crafting.


The science or sci.* hierarchy within Usenet is full of research-backed articles and scientific-related conversations. Users can find a wide range of scientific topics, including biology, chemistry, physics, and geography. You’ll find a nice mix of science researchers discussing findings here and users who are simply interested in these topics. The great thing about the science hierarchy is that you can easily access sub-hierarchies to find topics that aren’t as readily available using other online resources.

Social Discussions

The social discussion hierarchy, named soc.*, covers social issues and topics. Here, you might find religion, history, culture, or dating. The social hierarchy is one of the most popular group topics. Within the sub-hierarchies, you’ll find a wide range of specific social topics. Some of these include dating tips, medieval history, cultural thoughts, and cultural or travel tips.

The social newsgroup is also a popular place for socializing with other Usenet users. You can find a wide range of social discussions ongoing, including ones about dating, parenting, divorce, or other life stages.


The talk.* newsgroup within Usenet is a place where users can go to communicate with others with similar interests. Some areas of talk you may find within this category include politics, art, laws, religion, and debates. Some categories of talk may also be organized further into locations so users can communicate with others about specific laws or issues in their home state or city.

Usenet expanded over the years, adding many new users to its system. Because users could upload articles and start their own discussions, it led to an overwhelming amount of articles that made it difficult for users to find anything. The system found that by creating the Big 8, they could better organize the different article topics, making it easier for users to find what they wanted.

Usenet newsgroups are added via nomination and voting. The Big 8 Management Board oversees these categories, ensuring a consistent structure within Usenet. Of course, Usenet is home to other categories, but these are the most common. A few other hierarchies you may find include education, alternative, business, and free.

Before accessing any newsgroup within Usenet, you’ll need a service provider and indexer. A service provider allows you to access articles using their servers. An indexer is your search engine, which makes it possible to search among these different categories. With both of these tools in place, you can access all the interesting and unique articles that Usenet offers.