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Usenet Newsgroup Hierarchies

The Newsgroups line specifies which newsgroup or newsgroups the article belongs in. Newsgroups specified must all be the names of existing newsgroups, as no new newsgroups will be created by simply posting to them.

- Mark Horton; Standard For Interchange of USENET Messages; RFC 850; June 1983.

There are nine main top-level Usenet hierarchies, and many secondary ones. As described in how Usenet was invented, the newsgroup hierarchies in place today developed over a span of several years, with the standard categories consisting of alt and the Usenet 8 as listed below:

  • alt - alternative, popular topics
  • comp - computer science subjects
  • humanities - humanities subjects
  • misc - miscellaneous groups
  • news - news topics
  • rec - recreational subjects
  • sci - science topics
  • soc - sociological subjects
  • talk - controversial topics

There are thousands of other top-level hierarchies in use across the Usenet, and thousands of lower level hierarchies. Top-level hierarchies with more than 100 newsgroups in a 1999 measurement are listed below, with the nine main hierarchies highlighted in bold.

Hierarchy

Newsgroup Count

Hierarchy

Newsgroup Count

alt

9234

fr

210

fido7

1618

gov

208

comp

1151

relcom

194

rec

865

fido

193

clari

783

misc

187

microsoft

730

git

182

uw

463

umn

180

z-netz

443

aus

170

bit

392

net

163

fj

388

uiuc

162

de

375

pl

151

cl

343

utexas

140

tw

342

no

139

japan

328

han

134

su

317

es

127

ucb

306

humanities

124

soc

297

pdaxs

122

it

292

bionet

121

uk

258

can

114

sfnet

234

slac

102

sci

229

us

101

tnn

223

news

47

finet

211

talk

39


The largest second-level categories, also identified in a 1999 measurement, are listed below.

Hierarchy

Newsgroup Count

alt.fan.*

1101

alt.binaries.*

921

alt.music.*

533

alt.business.*

473

alt.sex.*

400

bit.listserv.*

360

tw.bbs.*

310

alt.tv.*

308

comp.sys.*

269

alt.games.*

226

alt.sports.*

226

soc.culture.*

169

alt.support.*

162

comp.os.*

153

rec.arts.*

138

alt.religion.*

131

rec.games.*

124

alt.familynames.*

116

rec.music.*

112

alt.flame.*

108

comp.lang.*

108

alt.culture.*

105

alt.politics.*

89

rec.sport.*

71

comp.unix.*

61

alt.christnet.*

43

alt.food.*

33

alt.currentevents.*

32

comp.infosystems.*

32

sci.med.*

32

soc.genealogy.*

30


There are also many local Usenet categories used for geographic localities. Sometimes local hierarchies are carried and distributed only among geographically local news servers. A few example local newsgroup hierarchies are listed below. You can search your own newsgroup list for hierarchies named after your town or region.

Hierarchy

Region

ca.*

California

chi.*

Chicago, Illinois

ne.*

US New England

ott.*

Ottawa, Canada

pnw.*

US Pacific Northwest

seattle.*

Seattle, Washington

su.*

Stanford University


Resources. The following Internet sites provide more information about newsgroup hierarchies:

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