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alt.discuss.internet.usenet FAQ

Welcome to the alt.discuss.internet.usenet FAQ page! a.d.i.u. is a WebTV-only newsgroup for the discussion of Usenet and Usenet newsgroups. It cannot be accessed via computer.


  1. What is the charter for this group?

    The purpose of this newsgroup is to provide a place for WebTV subscribers to discuss Usenet newsgroups.

    Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to, favorite/least favorite NGs, where to find news servers, anti-WebTV prejudice in Usenet, how to create Usenet NGs, and how WebTV users interact with Usenet in general.

  2. Can I use HTML in Usenet NGs?
    Unless it's a binaries group, no. Usenet is intended to be a text-only medium. The charters and FAQs of most groups specifically request that HTML not be used in posts. The use of HTML by WebTVers in Usenet groups is one of the main causes of anti-WebTV hostility in Usenet.
  3. I just found this great newsgroup at DejaNews, alt.whatever, but WebTV doesn't carry it! How can I get them to carry this NG?
    To request the addition of a newsgroup (for instance, alt.whatever, which doesn't actually exist; I made it up for purposes of illustration), you can send an email to It wouldn't hurt to put in the subject field "Usenet Request"; then, in the body of the email, put something like:
    Please add the following newsgroup to the WebTV newsreader:


    You can, of course, request more than one group at a time. The group(s) will probably be added within one week, and you might even receive a nice note from the WebTV postmaster himself.
  4. How are alt.* groups created?
    First, let me point out that they cannot be created with a WebTV box because the newgroup message that is posted to alt.config to create the group must have special headers, which are discussed below.

    A group proposal is first posted to alt.config. The proposal usually includes a description of the group (charter) and some sort of justification for the group's existence (e.g. "I did a search at DejaNews and found X number of posts on this topic that I feel needs its own NG"). After it is discussed/picked apart in alt.config for about one week, a special post called a newgroup message is made to alt.config. In addition to the usual NG headers, a few special headers must be added, namely "Control" and "Approved". The "Subject" header also requires a special format.

    If a person with the email address were sending a newgroup message to create the group alt.whatever, the relevant headers would read:

    Subject: cmsg newgroup alt.whatever
    Control: newgroup alt.whatever
    The first two items in the text area of the post will be a summary of the alt.config discussion and the "for your newsgroups file" information. (It doesn't matter which of these two comes first.) For our fictitious group alt.whatever, the "for your newsgroups file" format would be:
    For your newsgroups file:
    alt.whatever Miscellaneous discussion
    The "For your newsgroups file" phrase is on one line, then on the next line is the name of a group, one or more spaces, and a short description of the group.

    The newgroup message also includes a charter describing the group, which topics are allowed, and any applicable policies (this invariably includes "no HTML"). Also, justification of the group's potential readership is presented.

    If the newgroup message is formatted properly, it will never actually show up in alt.config. Instead, it will appear in control.newgroup (usually) or control. You can visit those NGs to see examples of actual newgroup messages.

    Once the newgroup message is posted, the new NG will be added automatically to some newsreaders, while at other newsreaders it will have to be added manually. It is a good idea to send out booster messages from time to time to make sure the NG is created at as many sites as possible.

  5. How are "Big Eight" newsgroups created?
    The rec.*, talk.*, soc.*, comp.*, news.*, humanities.*, sci.*, and misc.* hierarchies are known collectively as the "Big Eight". Groups in these hierarchies, the most widely-distributed areas of Usenet, are created in quite a different manner than alt.* groups.

    First, a request for discussion (RFD) is posted to news.announce.newgroups, news.groups, and any other related groups. The actual discussion takes place only in news.groups. The RFD includes a description of the group, the rationale for the group, the group's charter, and a paragraph explaining that the voting has not actually started yet and specifying how long the discussion period will last. The document "How to Format and Submit a New Group Proposal", which is posted regularly to news.announce.newgroups and news.groups, contains much more information on the standard format for RFDs.

    After the discussion period, a call for votes (CFV) is posted to news.announce.newgroups and any other group the original RFD might have been posted to. The voting is gathered and counted by a group of third-party vote takers called the Usenet Volunteer Votetakers. The CFV will explain how to vote (usually by either sending an email to a specified address stating "I vote YES for [group name]" or a ballot that has to be C&Ped, filled out, and sent to the appropriate email address). The CFV will state how long the voting will last (21-31 days), and the CFV may be reposted one or two times during the vote.

    After the voting period ends, the vote taker posts the vote tally to news.announce.newgroups and any other groups to which the CFV was posted. The vote tally includes a statement of which way each voter voted. After a 5 day waiting period, and if there are 100 more yes votes than no votes and at least 2/3 of the total number of valid votes received are yes votes, a newgroup control message is sent out by the news.announce.newgroups moderator. A proposal that fails to gather enough votes cannot be brought up for discussion again for six months.

    The document "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup", which is posted regularly to news.announce.newgroups, has much more information on the creation process. You can access news.announce.newgroups to see actual CFVs and RFDs. The archive of postings to news.announce.newgroups can be found at Unlike the archive for control messages, this archive can be accessed via WebTV. Included in the archive are RFDs, which generally contain the charter for the relevant NG; and CFVs and voting results.

  6. How exactly are Usenet newsgroups named?
    [Adapted from "Guidelines on Usenet Newsgroup Names", posted by David W. Wright to alt.config.]

    Newsgroup names are structured into parts separated by dots. Each part may be no longer than 14 characters and should consist of only letters, digits, "+" and "-". There should be at least one letter. [I believe it is also suggested that each part begin with a letter and not a numeral or other character.]

    Names fall into definite hierarchies. Each hierarchy may be subdivided into second, third, etc. hierarchies by adding more parts to the basic name. For example, in the newsgroup name rec.pets.dogs, the first part (rec) is the most general, the second (pets) more specific, and so on. Words at the same level are included into one part using a hyphen (e.g. misc.invest.real-estate).

    Group names should not be abbreviated or obscure. However, since the length of any component is limited to 14 characters, abbreviation may sometimes be necessary.

    Newsgroup names are intended to help users find what they want and news administrators manage their systems.

    • The group name should give users some idea of what the group is about without having to read a selection of posts to the group. The name should be clear enough to avoid users having to post "what is this group about?" articles and to ensure that those who are interested in the subject can recognize the group's purpose and start to partcipate in the group.
    • In addition, news administrators, when deciding which groups to carry, use group hierarchies to manage groups since they do not have time to manage so many groups separately. They may keep articles in one hierarchy longer than another, or they may decide not to take any groups from a certain hierarchy as none of their users read them.
  7. How can I post to Usenet without my WebTV address in the "from" field?
    Two methods to post via a non-WebTV address are:
    1. Register with (formerly DejaNews) with any valid email address (Yahoo, Hotmail, even your ISP addy if you are an OpenISP user). You will then be able to post to Usenet under that address.
    2. Email your post from a non-WebTV address to For example, if I wanted to post a message to alt.test on May 24, I would email it to This method does make it difficult to respond to a post.

Helpful Links

List of Usenet FAQs
news.newusers.questions Links Page
Index of FAQs about Starting an "alt" Newsgroup
Creating New Newsgroups
Zen and the Art of the Internet--Usenet News
Usenet: From Flame Wars to Killfiles
Usenet: the Global Watering Hole
Usenet News (Guide to Network Resource Tools)
news.announce.newusers Official Archive
Usenet History
Usenet FAQs
Usenet Information Center
Usenet News FAQs
Newsgroups (Links List from
Rules for Posting to Usenet
FAQs by Newsgroup
Newsgroups (from Paul Erickson's site)
Newsgroups Links (ditto)
How to Create Newsgroups
Guide for Writing an alt. Newsgroup Proposal
Tips for Tip-Top Posting
The Big Alt List A huge list of all newsgroups, conveniently divided into sections
Newbie Newsgroup Help
Usenet Voting Information
Musenet Newsgroup Reviews
List of* Groups
Recently Created Newsgroups
List of Usenet Newsgroups (yet another one)
Bonehead Usenet Reply Form (for entertainment purposes only!)
Finding the Right Place to Post
Usenet History
Cyberfiber List of Newsgroups
Hotbot Newsgroups Search
Newsgroup Index
Lost in Usenet (Usenet References)
Usenet Oldnews Archive (newsreaders and software, plus an excellent links list and a list of Usenet-related books available from Amazon)
Internet FAQ Archives
Home Page for
Reading the News
Moderated Newsgroups FAQ
So You Want to Create an Alt Newsgroup
Usenet--Internet for Beginners (MiningCo)
A Beginner's Introduction to News
Master List of Newsgroup Hierarchies
Why People Vote No on USENET Votes
User's Guide to the Changing USENET
Usenet FAQ Archive (FTP:
Usenet FAQ (
General Usenet Information
The Group List
Music in Usenet Newsgroups
Where Are People Discussing the Music You Like?
RFC 1855: Netiquette Guidelines

1999 Emily Jackson

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