1.1 Network News

Network News, sometimes called Usenet News, is a distributed bulletin board system that runs on millions of computers world-wide. These computers can be interconnected via Local Area Networks (LAN's), Wide Area Networks (WAN's) like the Internet, dialup modem networks or one-way satellite downlink networks. The overall collection of computers and networks, when it is used to store, forward or display Network News is called the Usenet. Users of the Usenet exchange views and information by writing articles that are then transmitted automatically between computers in the network.

Articles are organized by topics into a hierarchy of newsgroups. There are currently over 9000 newsgroups on the Usenet (including regional groups) but the average site carries around 2000-4000 groups. New newsgroups are created automatically by the network (after a vote of the network population) and old newsgroups are automatically deleted. Newsgroups are organized by subjects into a hierarchy that resembles a tree structure and the number of newsgroups and their access is determined by the news manager at each site. Local news managers also determine how many days an article is kept at their site before it is automatically expired.

Network News has many similarities to electronic mail (E-Mail) but differs in the way it organizes and distributes information. E-Mail systems are typically used to send person-to-person mail to an individual (direct mail) or group of individuals (mailing list). When the group of users become too large or too dynamic to easily administer over electronic mail, Network News is the system of choice. The information is sorted by subject and the user only needs to read the subjects he finds interesting. Network News can be thought of as a collection of very specialized magazines or journals that can be used to search for information or discuss topics.

The software that comprises the Network News system consists of News Servers and News Clients. WinVN is a News Client requiring a News Server before it can be used effectively. Servers communicate with other servers and provide disk space to store the actual messages. They also communicate with clients and provide lists of available newsgroups. A client can request a server to return a list of articles for any newsgroup or can request the actual text for an article. The client formats and displays information from the server in a form suitable to the user interface on the client machine.

The actual format of the messages exchanged between hosts follow the Internet Standard for Interchange of Usenet Messages (Internet Standard RFC-1036) and transfers these messages via the Network News Transfer Protocol - NNTP (Internet Standard RFC-977). Attachments are sent via the Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) protocol (Internet Standard RFC-1341).

WinVN Documentation created by Jim Dumoulin / NASA - Kennedy Space Center.
HyperTexted by Michael Downs / NASA - Kennedy Space Center.