If you are not familiar with it, you might think of Usenet as a completely different ‘network’ from the Internet, but are they two completely separate entities or are they ‘inter-connected’? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to that question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Screenshot shown above courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Question

SuperUser reader Help My Self wants to know what the difference between Usenet and the Internet is:

I am quite confused about what exactly Usenet is. On the Wiki article page, it says that Usenet is a “worldwide Internet distributed discussion system”.

First off, if it is “an Internet”, does that mean it’s just a global network of computers, but it’s not like, say, the World Wide Web with hypertext documents? I would like to know what draws the line between the correctness of just saying “the Internet” as opposed to, say, Usenet.

Basically, Usenet is a global network, but doesn’t use the WWW? What does it use then?

Are Usenet and the Internet two completely separate entities, or are they closely ‘inter-connected’ and part of a ‘greater whole’?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Hennes has the answer for us:

Usenet is a network of servers which spread messages (posts) in newsgroups. They connect to each other, and people connect to them, over the Internet using TCP/IP, and exchange messages using the NNTP protocol.

The World Wide Web is a series of standalone servers, which people also reach over the Internet using TCP/IP, and retrieve web pages using the HTTP protocol.

But do not confuse the Web with the Internet. Webpages are but a small part of the Internet, and many other programs used to connect to each other long before the first webpages were ever served. (For that, see the history of WWW.) The one you might be most familiar with is email, which is usually sent via TCP/IP over the Internet using the SMTP protocol, but there are many more.

Also note that in the past, servers would exchange email and Usenet messages over phone lines using UUCP as the protocol – forming an informal UUCPNET – as Internet connections were rare and expensive for a long time.

Want to learn more about Usenet and how to get started using it? Then browse on over to read through our awesome Guide to Getting Started with Usenet!

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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