A newsreader is an application used to read articles, post messages to newsgroup discussions, and download binary files on Usenet.
What a browser is to the World Wide Web, a newsreader is to Usenet. Just as a you need a web browser to view webpages, you need a newsreader to access newsgroups on Usenet. A newsreader is a piece of software used to interact with newsgroups on Usenet, including subscribing to newsgroups, viewing certain kinds of content, downloading content, and posting messages.
There are four different categories newsreaders may fit into:
- Integrated desktop newsreaders: Some popular newsreaders are designed to integrate into other applications such as email clients. For example, Mozilla Thunderbird email client includes an integrated newsreader feature.
- Tranditional newsreaders: These newsreaders are stand-alone applications designed to interact with text-based Usenet newsgroups, and not to download binary files from the alt.binaries groups.
- Binary downloaders: Many Usenet users aren’t there for the conversation, they’re there to download media files called binaries. Usenet clients, in this case very loosely called newsreaders, designed primarily for downloading binary files, are called binary downloaders.
- Combination newsreaders: Newsreaders that are designed both for interaction with text-based newsgroups as well as for downloading binary files are called combination newsreaders.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some popular newsreaders?
A number of well-known desktop applications include built-in newsreaders. A few popular software products in this category include Mozilla Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, Outlook Express, and Seamonkey.
Long before Usenet became a place to download and distribute (often illegal) binary files, it was a lively discussion platform for the technically-inclined. If your interest in Usenet is primarily motivated by a desire to interact with these types of conversations, and you want a stand-alone application to do the job, check out Gnus, Gemini, slrn, and XPN.
Two popular binary downloaders are GrabIt and NewsBin. Give them a try if you want Usenet access but don’t care to access text-based discussion groups.
There are several combination newsreaders available though most are proprietary. For a free combination newsreader, consider Pan or Xnews.
Why do I need a newsreader? Why can’t I use a web browser to access Usenet?
Once I have a newsreader, how do I access Usenet?
In order to access Usenet you’ll need to set up a Usenet service with a service provider. Some Internet Service Providers offer Usenet subscriptions, but typically only support a small sliver of all of Usenet (while other portions remained inaccessible). If you want access to the full Usenet experience you will want to sign up with a Usenet service provider like Giganews, Newshosting, or Astraweb.