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Groups (Discussion Forums)

If you're searching for advice, opinions, and recommendations that haven't necessarily been edited, consider using Google Groups. It which provides access (posting and reading) to Usenet discussion forums, an enormous storehouse of discourse, including:

Usenet discussion forums became popular in the 1980s before the birth of the World Wide Web. In 1995, a company named DejaNews began archiving Usenet. In 1999, during the .com boom, DejaNews changed its name to Like many .com companies, didn't do well financially. In February of 2001, sold its Usenet archives to Google for an undisclosed amount. Google made Deja's entire archive (dating back to 1995) as well as lots of material posted earlier available from the Google Groups home page.

Click on Groups link above Google's search box or visit to access this comprehensive archive of human conversation, dating back to 1981.

Note: Particularly in the latter part of the 1980s, there are some significant gaps in the archive. As traffic expanded, volunteers who had been saving Usenet traffic at their own expense were overwhelmed, and stopped archiving some groups. While the Google Groups archive is the most complete Usenet archive known to exist, it is not a complete archive prior to the 1990s.

Screen shot of Google Groups home page.

Newsgroups or forums are grouped into several large areas each of which is broken into subareas. The different parts are always separated by a "." (period). The first part of a name is called its hierarchy. Consider, for instance, the name The newsgroup is in the rec or recreation area, in the sports subarea. Within each newsgroup, there are messages (also eferred to as articles or postings) that look like email from one user to another. But instead of just being exchanged between two people, these messages are available to everyone who accesses the Usenet or Google Groups. The top level hierarchies on Google Groups are:

alt.  Alternative discussions (any conceivable topic)
biz.  Business products, services, reviews, etc.
comp.  Relating to computers
humanities.  Fine art, literature, philosophy, etc.
misc.  Miscellaneous topics, e.g., employment, health, etc.
news.  Relating to Usenet netnews itself
rec.  Relating to recreation, e.g., games, hobbies, sports
sci.  Relating to the sciences
soc.  Relating to social issues, culture
talk.  Long arguments, current issues and debates, frequently political 

Here are some examples of newsgroup names.
alt.atheism.moderated      rec.aviation.soaring
biz.books.technical soc.feminism
misc.invest.real-estate talk.politics.misc

Discussion groups can be unmoderated (anyone can post) or moderated (submissions are automatically directed to a moderator, who edits and filters out inappropriate and irrelevant material). Some discussion groups have parallel mailing lists, with postings to a group automatically propagated to its mailing list and vice versa. Some moderated groups are even distributed as digests, groups of postings periodically being collected into a single large posting with an index. The names of some moderated groups include the suffix .moderated, e.g., rec.martial-arts.moderated.

Click on a topic (hierarchy) or enter your query. Example: [ compact digital camera recommendations ] 

Google Groups

Click the title to view the original article with your search terms highlighted.

A thread from Google Groups

Click on the "View Thread" link to see the original article together with followup articles.

A thread from Google Groups

If you want to participate in a discussion you can learn how by visiting the Google Groups Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about posting at Also be sure to read the first answer in . Google Groups Posting Style Guide. Usenet has a very strong culture, and well-established ways of doing things. In order to get the best responses to your post, you should try to conform to Usenet standards.

Note If you post to Usenet via Google Groups, your email address will be distributed widely and you may receive lots of spam as a result. consider getting another email address from Yahoo, Hotmail, or some other free service to use for your public postings.

If you want to search within a specific group, for a specific message, for message within a specific time interval or for those written by a certain person, click on the Advanced Groups Search link or visit

Advanced Google Groups Search

For more information on Google Groups visit


These problems give you practice in searching Google Groups. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find recommendations for sites for booking flights online.

  2. Find travel tips for places to stay and visit in central London.

  3. Find reviews of online banking services.

  4. How can you remove varnish from a maple coffee table?

  5. Find the list of especially memorable articles and threads from Usenet that Google has compiled.

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