Usenet News

I've talked generally about the thousands of Usenet newsgroups that hold fast-moving discussions on every imaginable topic. My host machine, for example, carried over 9,000 of them at last count, and that's nowhere near the entire list. Hundreds of thousands of people read Usenet every day. It's certainly one of the most interesting, although strange, parts of the Internet.

NOTE: Prompted by a problem posed by Nicholas Negroponte, head of the MIT Media Lab, Eric Jorgensen of MIT did a survey in early 1994 to determine the average age and gender of Usenet readers. Jorgensen received 4,566 responses to his survey. He figured out that the average age of the Usenet reader is 30.7 years old (with a standard deviation of 9.4). Eighty-six and a half percent of the replies came from men, 13.5 percent came from women, and 0.1 percent came from, well, not men or women. Although most newsgroups he surveyed were heavily male-dominated, (71% female), (91% female), and (50% female) were notable exceptions. You may be able to find more information about the survey and the full results in:

How is Usenet different from the mailing lists we've just looked at in the last chapter? I see two primary differences, neither of which has to do with the information that flows through them.

First, although mailing lists may propagate faster because they go directly to the subscriber, they can be extremely inefficient. If only one person on a machine reads a mailing list, one copy comes in. If, however, 100 people on that machine all read the same mailing list, then 100 identical copies of each posting must come in, eating up disk space and slowing down other tasks. This is bad. In contrast, only one copy of every Usenet message goes to each site, and any number of people at that site can read it. So, assuming that both contained an identical posting (which in reality occurs only occasionally), you could greatly reduce your machine's storage load by reading the Usenet newsgroup instead of the mailing list.

Second, many people like mailing lists because they always read their mail but may not always run a separate newsreading program. This situation actually works in favor of news as well. Most email programs are designed for a relatively small number of messages, each completely different and unrelated. In contrast, most newsreaders concern themselves with large numbers of messages, many of which are related, or in a thread. So, if you read the news and come across an interesting posting, reading the next posting in that thread is easy (or should be), whether or not that posting is the next one in the list. Following threads in an email program is generally difficult or impossible.

Given those advantages, how does Usenet work, what do the messages on it look like, and how do you generally interact with it?

Usenet Plumbing

For the most part, knowing how Usenet actually works isn't even slightly important to daily life. However, the basic principles may help you to better cope with some of its quirks and limitations.

The entire concept of Usenet is based on one machine transferring postings to another. Scale that up so that any one machine carrying Usenet messages talks to at least one other machine carrying Usenet messages, and you start to see how this simple idea can become an immense and powerful reality. We're talking about thousands of machines and millions of people and megabytes of data per day.

The actual process by which your message travels is equally simple. The Usenet software creates a batch of messages to go out and compresses the batch to reduce transmission time. When the next machine receives the batch, it unbatches the messages, placing the files in directories in which the newsreading software knows to find them. One testament to the simplicity of this scheme is that not all implementations have to use this technique. Some UUCP programs can create a single file for each newsgroup and append new messages to that single file. However, most Unix machines store the messages as individual files within specific directories, and those directories are directly related to the names of the newsgroups, which you look at next.

Newsgroup Innards

Just as email addresses make sense after you know all the parts, so do the Usenet newsgroup names. Although they resemble email addresses, the basic principles are a bit different.

NOTE: Although, like email addresses, Usenet newsgroups use periods to separate different parts of the name, people tend not to use them in conversation. If, for example, you were to tell a friend about an interesting discussion on, you'd say "Check it out on comp sys ibm pc misc." Part of the problem may be the linguistic clumsiness of saying all those "dots," but I suspect more of the reason is that precision isn't nearly as necessary. Unlike email addresses, you seldom type out newsgroup names. It may also have to do with the fact that newsgroup names are all unique and easily parsed.

The premise of the Usenet newsgroup naming scheme is that of a hierarchy. The naming scheme makes figuring out how to name new groups easy. More importantly, it maps over to a hierarchical directory (or folder) structure. On the Unix machines that hold the newsgroups, therefore, you might find a directory called news. Inside that directory sit other directories corresponding to the top-level parts of the hierarchy -- alt, comp, misc, news, rec, sci, and so on. These directories are abbreviations for alternate, computers, miscellaneous, news, recreation, and science, respectively.

NOTE: I could attempt to create a table listing all the top level hierarchies, but it's a pointless task. There are many local hierarchies that I have no way of finding (just as many other machines probably don't carry the halcyon or seattle hierarchies that I can see), and I couldn't begin to guess which hierarchies your machine might carry.

Let's dissect the name of, a popular newsgroup. If we first look into the comp directory, we see more directories corresponding to lang, sys, and so on. Under sys we find many directories, one for each computer system. There are atari, amiga, ibm, mac, and gobs of systems that you may never have even heard of. (I certainly haven't heard of all of them.) After we go into the ibm directory and thence on into the pc directory, we find the lowest level directories that correspond to the individual topics about the IBM PC. These include games, soundcard, hardware, misc, demos, rt, digest, and others. Once inside those directories (feel like you're in a Russian doll again?), you find the files that hold the text of the messages (see figure 7.1).

Figure 7.1: An abbreviated Usenet hierarchy tree

This system may seem a tad clumsy, but remember, as a user you never have to traverse that entire directory structure. It exists to categorize and classify newsgroups, and to provide a storage system that maps onto a Unix directory structure.

NOTE: Historically, this structure was used so that as little C code programming as possible had to be done to store and retrieve Usenet news. A design goal for B-news and C-news, the earliest Unix news servers, was to make as much of it as possible run as Unix shell scripts, precluding any fancy binary database backends. Why was that? Laziness is the mother of some invention.

Message Construction

On the surface, a Usenet posting looks much like an email message (see figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2: A Usenet header

The posting's header holds a From line, a Subject line, and a fair amount of other stuff. Then comes the body of the message, and a signature.

The header has a few new lines that you might find interesting.

First comes the Newsgroups line. It lists, separated by commas, all the newsgroups to which the message is posted. You can post a message to more than one group at a time by putting more than one group in the Newsgroups line. At that point, an article is cross-posted. If you must post an article in several groups, make sure to post via the Newsgroups line and not through individual messages. Individual messages take up more space, because a machine stores only one copy of a cross-posted article along with pointers to it from different groups.
The next Usenet-specific line is the Follow-up-To line, which usually contains the name of the newsgroup in which the article appears. Sometimes, however, you want to post an article in one group, have a discussion, then move back to another group. In this case you put the second group in the Follow-up-To line, because whenever anyone posts a follow-up to your article, the news software makes sure that it ends up in the proper group.
Reply-To: (Mike Simon)
The Reply-To ensures that all email replies come back to the poster. It makes it easier for people to respond directly rather than cluttering the group with personal messages.
Keywords: modems, 62550, parallel

Summary: A request for a discussion of parallel interface modems versus fast UART serial modems.
Sometimes you see a Keywords and/or Summary line as well. Although not universal or enforced, it's often a good idea to fill in these lines for your article before you post it. That way, people who have set up their newsreaders properly can more effectively filter articles based on keywords. In addition, some newsreaders show only the header and first few lines of an article, and then let the readers decide whether they want to read the whole thing. A few well-chosen keywords or a concise summary can help make that decision easier.
Distribution: world
Many articles are relevant only in specific geographic areas. You have two ways to handle this situation. First, if you're selling a car in, say, Seattle, you should post to a specific group that goes only to people in Seattle (more or less, anyway), such as Many of these site-specific groups exist, even down to the machine. There's a group, halcyon.slip, for example, for discussion about issues affecting SLIP and PPP users of the machine.

The other way to handle this situation is to use the Distribution line. This enables you to limit the area to which your message is distributed, even if the group encompasses all of Usenet. So, if you want to post a notice about a Seattle British Car Show in, you should put seattle, or possibly pnw (for Pacific Northwest) in the Distribution line.

Subject: Are the parallel interface modems faster?
And of course we have the ubiquitous Subject line. Much as it is courteous for you to provide a descriptive Subject line in an email message, it's imperative in a Usenet posting. Most newsreaders these days show the user a list of the messages and their subjects. If you don't provide a good Subject line, far fewer people even notice your message. In the above example, the reader sees that I'm asking a question (an excellent way to start a discussion) about faster modem interfaces. If you're not interested, or have no information to impart on that subject, it's easy to avoid reading this message entirely. It should be noted that subsequent responses to my original question will probably have a subject line that looks more like:
Subject: Re: Are the parallel interface modems faster?
Most newsreaders will tack the "Re:" onto the subject line to indicate a follow-up type of response.

The Newsgroup Stork

Now that you know something about how messages travel from machine to machine and how the naming system works, you may wonder where new newsgroups come from. Whenever I've talked about the range of Usenet groups, I've said something to the effect of "and if there isn't one that matches your interests, you can create one." That is true, but the process is not trivial.

NOTE: Although I summarize the process below, if you want to see all the gory details, check out two periodic postings in news.announce.newusers. Both "How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup" and "The Usenet Newsgroup Creation Companion" are required reading for anyone seriously considering creating a new group.

The first rule in creating new groups is: Don't do so unless you are absolutely sure no appropriate group already exists. Usually, you simply haven't found the right group. Once you do, the need to create a group disappears. The Usenet structure lends itself to talking about almost any subject in an existing group. For instance, you can talk about anything IBM-PC-related in Thus, the second rule of creating a new group: Don't create a group until the traffic in a more general group has grown unmanageable, and stayed that way for some time. As a rule of thumb, wait six months. And, one way or another, make sure you have a Usenet old-timer on your side, to help with the details and steer you clear of any egregious mistakes.

After you are sure the world really does need a group dedicated to discussion of the psychology of smelling flowers from under cork trees, you write a proposal. This Request for Discussion, or RFD, states what the group is called, what its purpose is, why no existing group serves the need, and so on. Then your job as agitator begins, as you distribute the RFD to groups where interested parties might hang out. Be sure to place the news.announce.newgroups group first in the Newsgroups line (so the moderator can correct any problems in the RFD before posting it to news.announce.newgroups and the others for you) and to set the Follow-up-To line so that the discussion takes place in news.groups. Then you encourage discussion of the topic for 30 days in news.groups, all the while collecting responses and modifying the proposal, called a charter, accordingly.

After 30 days, if people don't agree on the charter, you must start the RFD process again -- with a new and improved proposal, of course. If everyone does agree on the charter, the time has come for a Call For Votes, or CFV, with clear and unbiased directions on how to vote.

The CFV goes, once again, to all the interested newsgroups, with news.announce.newgroups first in the Newsgroups line. It lasts between 21 and 31 days, and you must include the exact end date in the CFV. Once again, your job is to collect and tally the votes via email. (Don't even think of stuffing the electronic ballot box -- there's little the Usenet community hates more than a cheat.) You must record each voter's email address along with his Yes or No vote, for later use. You can repost the CFV during the vote to keep up awareness, but only if you don't change anything from the original CFV.

At the end of the voting period, you post the results -- including the total number of votes, and the vote and email address for each -- to news.announce.newgroups and the other interested newsgroups. Then everyone waits five days, which provides enough time to correct any mistakes or raise serious objections. You need to meet two separate goals to justify a newsgroup: a sufficient number of votes and, within that number, a sufficient number of YES votes. If you have at least 100 more YES votes (for creating the newsgroup) than NO votes, and at least two-thirds of the votes are YES votes, then the group passes the vote.

If, of course, you don't get the required number or percentage of votes, the group doesn't get created. There's no shame in not having your group created. You can even try again in six months if you want to and interest seems to have increased since the original failure. If you fail more than twice, give it up and form your own mailing list. You don't need anyone's cooperation to do that.

If the vote comes out positive, someone (often the moderator of news.announce.newgroups) can create the group, sending out the newsgroup control message. Gradually, the group is created at different sites and propagates through much of the network. Why not the entire network? Well, nothing says a machine has to carry every Usenet group in existence. If certain system administrators decide that talking about smelling flowers is offensive, they might decide not to carry the group. None of the machines that rely on their machines for news will have the group, either. Nonetheless, groups focusing on technical issues enjoy relatively complete propagation. Even those discussing topics that some people find offensive enjoy wide propagation, and often greater readership, than the technical groups.

Using Usenet

No matter what software you use to access Usenet, you must be aware of some basic concepts, tasks, and features. When I evaluate different newsreaders in later chapters, I tell whether the newsreader in question does a good job of handling these tasks and features for you.

Subscribing to Groups

When you first invoke a newsreader, you must subscribe to the groups you want to read. Occasionally, the newsreader automatically subscribes you to a couple of basic groups, such as news.newusers.questions and news.announce.newusers. For the most part, however, the thousands of available newsgroups are in the unsubscribed category.

Most machines don't carry all of the Usenet groups. Numbers vary, but there are somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 groups, all told. If your machine doesn't carry a group you want, you can either ask the system administrator to get it, or go to a machine that lets anyone read news on it. These sites are called public NNTP sites. Be forewarned, however: Only a few public NNTP (Net News Transport Protocol) sites still exist, and even fewer of those allow posting. And no, I don't know of any at the moment, so you're on your own in terms of finding one.

Generally, the first time you start up, a newsreader takes a long time because you have to go through all the groups and figure out which ones to subscribe to. The better newsreaders allow you to sort through the list at different times. In the past, you had to sit for an hour or more just unsubscribing from all the groups you didn't want to read. It was a major hassle. Even now, allot plenty of time to your first session if you're doing it interactively.

Reading Articles

After you subscribe to a group, it's time to read the articles. Obviously, the first time you read, all the articles are new to you. After that, you want to make sure that you read only previously unread articles. Most newsreaders are extremely good about keeping track of what you've read already. In the Unix world, the .newsrc file tracks what you've read. Advanced users can edit that file manually with a text editor, to subscribe or unsubscribe from several groups at once. The Windows newsreaders make that task, on the whole, unnecessary.

You've learned what the header for a Usenet article might look like, but many newsreaders hide most of the header from you. This is generally helpful, although it can be a pain at times.

Discussions happen in threads, which are groups of related articles, generally with the same or very similar Subject lines. Threads are important because they group both discussions that you want to read and those you don't want to read. Believe me, threads are a very big deal when you have to handle the kind of volume that passes through a popular newsgroup.

When it comes to newsreaders, there are two basic philosophies. The first, which is older, assumes that you want to read 90 percent of the information in a newsgroup. Therefore, the newsreader tries to show you the text of every article unless you explicitly tell it to skip that article or thread. This method may have worked better in the days when Usenet traffic was relatively sparse, but in these modern times, the traffic comes fast and thick. I liken this method to trying to drink from a fire hose.

The second philosophy believes that you want to read only 10 percent of the articles in any given group. With the exception of moderated groups or low-volume groups where every message counts, this assumption is far more realistic. Newsreaders built on this philosophy usually provide a list of the unread messages in a newsgroup, then let you pick and choose which to read. Some newsreaders force you to read each message or thread as you pick it. Others make you pick a whole bunch of them at once and then read them after you've sorted through the entire newsgroup. Both methods have their advantages, and a good newsreader lets you work either way.


After you start reading a set of messages, you need tools for navigating among them. Navigation tools were more important back in the days when character-based Unix newsreaders were all we had. Today, many of the Windows newsreaders replace the navigation commands with mouse actions. However, many people (myself included) find the keyboard to be more efficient than the mouse for navigating through news, so perhaps there's still room for some of the old ideas.

The most common navigation capability takes you to the next unread message, whether or not it is in the same thread as the message that preceded it. Closely related is the capability to move to the next unread message in the same thread, even if it's not next to the message you were just reading. In a well-designed newsreader, these two capabilities are closely intertwined, so you don't have to know whether or not you're in a thread.

NOTE: Often, these navigation features are encapsulated in a single command linked to the Spacebar, which thus serves as an unusual computer command. Essentially, it says to the newsreader, "Do whatever makes the most sense right here." Computers hate those sort of commands, but the concept works extremely well in a newsreader. The Spacebar scrolls down the page; when you hit the bottom of the article, you probably want to read the next article in the thread, so the Spacebar takes you there. When you finish all the articles in that thread, you probably want to go back up and read the next thread, so the Spacebar takes you back up. Finally, after you read everything in a newsgroup, the Spacebar assumes that you want to read the next newsgroup you subscribe to. By making intelligent guesses, a number of commands can be subsumed under that one key. Too bad not all newsreaders subscribe to this concept.

You want to group discussions into threads so that you can easily read an entire one, even when it spans a fair amount of real world time. You also want to group discussions so you can ignore them more easily. Despite the fact that people should include descriptive Subject lines in their postings, they don't always. If you see a long thread called "Cool Stuff," you have no idea what it's about. It may pique your curiosity, though, so you start reading, only to find out that it's another "my computer is better than your computer" flame war. Now you need a way to kill the entire thread. Good newsreaders make that simple.

An even neater feature is the ability to create a list of Subject lines or topics about which you never want to read. This capability usually applies to anything in the header and sometimes to information in the body of the messages, too. It's extremely useful for customizing your Usenet reading experience.

To go even one step further, a few newsreaders provide a filtering feature to only read articles that match certain topics. These are ideal for the truly busy user.

After you read all the messages that interest you, it's generally a good idea to mark the rest of them as read (even though you didn't read them). This way, you don't see them again the next time you read news. Some newsreaders handle this option automatically, whereas others make you mark them manually. Sometimes, especially if you just returned from a vacation, you may want to mark everything as read without even trying to read the waiting messages. Marking everything lets you start with a clean slate and with a manageable number of messages the next day, and is generally referred to as catching up. There's no difference between a "catch up" feature and a "mark all as read" feature, but you may see both in different programs.

Now you know all about navigating around Usenet and reading articles. Many people never move past that point, and are called lurkers. The term has very mild connotations; it simply means people who only read and never post.


I almost forgot. You might occasionally run across articles that are completely unreadable. They may be in a newsgroup specific to a language you don't understand, but the newsreader can't help with that problem. It can (or should be able to) help you with messages coded in the rot13 format. Rot13 is a simple coding scheme that assigns a number to each letter of the alphabet, starting with 1 for A, 2 for B, and so on, for every character in a message. It then adds 13 to each number and converts back into letters. The result is an utterly unreadable message, which the poster usually intended because some people might find the message offensive. If you see such a message and are easily offended, don't read it. No one forces you to use the rot13 decoding feature that exists in most newsreaders. If you do, you can't very well complain about the contents. I usually see most rot13 encoded postings in joke newsgroups, protecting the innocent from really sick jokes (see figure 7.3).

Figure 7.3: Normal text versus rot13

Replying to Articles

In the course of reading Usenet news, you often see messages that aren't quite clear or that catch your interest for some reason or another. When you see such a message, you may want to send email to the poster. You could, of course, copy down the poster's email address from the header onto a little piece of paper, and when you finished reading news, use your email program to send him or her a message. However, that process is a pain and wastes lots of little pieces of paper, so most newsreaders support sending mail replies while you're reading news.

Use email replies whenever the rest of the group won't give a hoot about what you have to say. Most of us feel that our words are pearls of wisdom and should be distributed to the widest possible audience. But try to step back and think about whether your reply is best directed at the individual making the posting or the group as a whole.

People often ask questions on Usenet, saying that you should reply directly to them and that they plan to summarize to the net. Listen to what these people have to say. They only want replies via email, and because they've promised to post a summary of the replies, you don't need to ask for a copy personally (unless perhaps you don't stand a chance of seeing the summary in the newsgroup; even then, ask nicely). If you ever post a question and promise a summary, live up to your promise, even if you get only a couple of responses. No matter how many responses you get, format them nicely with quote characters before each quoted line so that they are easy for readers to understand; messages are often confusing as to who wrote what in a summary. Never repost entire headers.

As far as what to say when you reply to postings on Usenet, reread what I said about email manners in the last chapter. The same rules apply here. If you must carry out a flame war, do it in email; but if possible, don't do it at all.


Discussions are the entire point of Usenet, of course, so you eventually gather the courage to post something to a newsgroup. For most people, the easiest way to post a message is to reply to another message, an action called following up. A follow-up is easier for the novice because the newsreader fills in most of the lines in the header for you; the lines for Subject, Newsgroups, Distribution, and so on are generally determined by the message you reply to.

Just as in email, you should be given the chance to quote the previous message so that readers can understand the context of your reply. Some newsreaders are picky about the proportion of quoted text to new text, and for good reason. No one wants to read a two-screen quoted letter only to see at the bottom a few words from you: "I agree with all this." Even in newsreaders that don't prevent you from overquoting, be careful. Try to edit out as much of the quoted text as possible. Remember that most people have already seen that message in its original form, so you're simply jogging their memory. Definitely remove signatures and unnecessary previously quoted text.

NOTE: Using Usenet as a method of getting a message to a specific individual is considered extremely bad form, even if you can't seem to get email to that person. Imagine, everyone's discussing nuclear disarmament, and you suddenly see a message from a college friend. Your note discussing old times at Catatonic University will hold absolutely no interest for the rest of the group. If you find yourself being flamed, suffer and don't do it again.

Posting an Article

If you really have something new to say, or a new question to ask, don't insert it into an existing thread just because it's easier than posting a new one. Posting a new message should be simple enough in any decent newsreader.

NOTE: If you cannot post from a newsreader, you can still send messages to a Usenet newsgroup. Two email posting services exist: and Do not send email to news-group, but to the name of the group to which you want to post, replacing the dots in the group name with dashes. So, for example, to post to, send email to Make sure to ask for replies via email.

In general, you should avoid posting a few things. Avoid posting copyrighted works such as magazine articles or newspaper stories. Although it's unlikely that anyone could sue the Internet (it would be a bit like boxing with a dense mist), that person might sue you for copyright infringement. Besides, posting copyrighted work is not polite. Simply post the complete reference to the article or whatever, along with a summary or selected quote or two if you want to pique some curiosity.

NOTE: Interestingly, recipes in cookbooks are not copyrighted because they are essentially lists of instructions. However, the instructions for creating the recipe may be protected if they contain anything other than the bare bones instructions, and any preface explaining or describing the recipe is definitely protected. People often post a recipe or two from a cookbook they particularly like so that others can see whether they like the recipes enough to buy the book.

Perhaps the least obvious but most important works to avoid posting are pictures scanned in from magazines or videos digitized from TV or videotape. Most of the scanned pictures are varying degrees of erotic images, and unfortunately, most are blatant examples of copyright infringement. The magazines, Playboy in particular, don't look kindly on this sort of thing, and legal action might result. Besides, pictures suck up disk space, and the quality of a scanned image doesn't even begin to approach the high-quality photography and printing of most magazines.

In general, you should not post headline events that everyone can read about in the newspaper or possibly in ClariNet (which I talk about in a bit). I don't mean to imply that you can't talk about these events, but because news travels relatively slowly to all parts of the net, announcing the results of an election or a similar event is just silly. People already know about the event, and if they don't, they'll figure it out from the ensuing discussion.

Finally, don't post personal email that you receive unless the sender gives you explicit permission. As with most things on the Internet, posting personal email is a legally murky area, but the etiquette is crystal-clear: It's rude.


Along with all the discussion groups about computers and recreational activities and whatnot, you may see a hierarchy under clari. You've found ClariNet. Unlike Usenet, ClariNet doesn't carry any discussions, and in fact, you cannot post to any ClariNet groups. Instead ClariNet is dedicated to distributing commercial information, much of it the same stuff that you read in your newspaper or hear on the radio. ClariNet claims 60,000 daily readers, which isn't too bad in terms of circulation.

Also unlike Usenet, ClariNet isn't free. A site must pay a certain amount to receive the ClariNet news feed, which uses the same transport protocols and newsreaders as Usenet. Sites that receive the ClariNet feed cannot redistribute that feed on to other machines unless those machines pay for it as well. Because of ClariNet's commercial nature, I can't predict whether you even have access to it. It's strictly up to each site.

Much of the ClariNet information comes from press wires like UPI, along with NewsBytes computer articles and various syndicated columnists such as Miss Manners. A recent arrival is Dilbert, the cartoon by Scott Adams (although you have to download each installment and view it in a graphics program, since there isn't a newsreader around that can view graphics internally). Although you can probably find much of the information in a standard newspaper, ClariNet organizes it extremely well, making reading about a single topic much easier. For instance, some groups carry local news briefs for each state, some carry only news about telecommunication, and there are groups with tantalizing names like, which indeed includes only articles that are good news. (Depressingly, that newsgroup sees very little traffic.)

ClariNet was founded a few years ago by Brad Templeton, who is also well known as the creator of the moderated group rec.humor.funny, which accepts only jokes that he thinks are funny (actually, someone else does the selection now). ClariNet is an important experiment, because it is specifically commercial traffic flowing via the same methods and pathways as Usenet, perhaps the most rabidly anticommercial part of the Internet. I don't know the business details of ClariNet, but it has been around long enough that I suspect it's a financial success, and the news that it brings is certainly welcome.

Enough Usenet

Well, that's enough on Usenet. You're ready to move on to the services that require a full connection to the Internet, such as FTP, Telnet, WAIS, Gopher, and the World Wide Web.