Usenet newsgroups hierarchy
By understanding how the hierarchies are structured you can significantly speed up a search of the topic of your interest.
Newsgroups are similar to discussion forums you can find all around the World Wide Web, but they are carried out globally, technically distinctive and work a little bit different. They are carried over the Usenet system - a network of servers exchanging newsgroups messages.
When the newsgroups first started their initial hierarchy was nothing like it is today. To simplify the structure and to make it easier for people to find specific topic, newsgroups were organized into the hierarchy. This hierarchy is divided into 8 main categories also known as the Big 8.
As an addition to the Big 8, another category (alt.*) was added containing all the topics that could not fit into the Big 8.
Big 8 are the top-level hierarchy, meaning that they are defined by the prefix prior to the first dot.
Following is the overview of the main Big 8 categories. The asterisk in the name is replaced by the name of a subtopic.
Big 8 categories
|comp.*||Computer-related discussions||comp.software, comp.sys.intel, comp.lang.c|
|misc.*||Miscellaneous topics||misc.education, misc.forsale, misc.kids|
|news.*||Newsgroup-related matters||news.groups, news.admin|
|rec.*||Recreation and entertainment||rec.music, rec.arts.movies, rec.arts.books, rec.sport.soccer|
|sci.*||Science-related discussions||sci.psychology, sci.research, sci.astro|
|soc.*||Social discussions||soc.college.org, soc.culture.african, soc.couples.weddings|
|talk.*||Talk about various controversial topics and discussions with no obvious categorization||talk.religion, talk.politics, talk.bizarre|
An addition to the Big 8 is the alt.* category which has its own hierarchy. This category is outside of the Big 8 system. As it is very extensive not all of the groups could be fitted here.
Note that some of the examples below also have subcategories organized by subtopics.
|alt.ascii-art||A group for posting, admiring and discussing ASCII art|
|alt.binaries.*||A place to look for MP3, videos, pictures or similar binary files|
|alt.cyberpunk||Discussing the writer William Gibson and the cyberpunk|
|alt.history.what-if||Discussion of alternate history scenarios|
|alt.humor||Jokes and humor in general|
|alt.religion||Religion related topics|
|alt.sex||The first alt.* newsgroup for discussion of sexual topics|
|alt.tv||General discussions of television shows|
There are also a number of other hierarchies outside the Big 8 and alt.* on the newsgroup servers. Some of these are carried out only locally, some are specific to a company and some are in non-English language for regional or country based topics and discussions.
Here are few examples:
|de.*||Discussions in German|
|fr.*||Discussions in French|
|microsoft.*||Discussions about Microsoft products|
|gnu.*||Discussions about GNU software|
|england.*||Discussions (mostly) local to England|
|hawaii.*||Discussions (mostly) local to Hawaii|
|harvard.*||Discussions (mostly) local to Harvard|
|fidonet.*||Discussions routed from FidoNet|