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Usenet is an online discussion system established in 1980. Users read and post messages to categories known as "newsgroups".

Usenet was the first widespread Internet forum system. Established in the days of dial-up modems, Usenet was strictly text-only (with binaries in their own ill-propagated subsection), a format which continued into the early 2000s, even as the World Wide Web came into more common use. ASCII artWikipedia did exist, but was often scorned as a waste of bandwidth. (Small examples were sometimes tolerated as custom signatures for posts.)

It was host to an insane amount of crankery, the reaction to which was the beginning of the modern skeptical Internet.

What remains of Usenet these days is mostly binary pornography and copyright infringement, with occasional remaining communities still camped out there.

Relevant newsgroups[edit]

  • alt.atheism(link) (news://alt.atheism ; Google Groups(link)) is a newsgroup about atheism and related topics, such as skepticism and the creation-evolution "controversy". Unfortunately it attracts a lot of trolls such as "Jahnu", "Joe Bruno" and "Zachy".[1] Other topics of discussion include politics, religion (obviously), social justice, and miscellaneous topics not related to this wiki's mission.
  • alt.folklore.urban was a fountain of snark, with a nominal focus on urban legends. Today its google group(link) is about as lively as one might expect — that is to say, not very.
  • sci.skeptic (news://sci.skeptic) was the first newsgroup on the Internet to discuss matters on skepticism. Its current incarnation(link) has turned into a wasteland of spam and inane comment chains.
  • alt.tasteless was an early source of internet trolling as well as a progenitor of sorts to the 4chan /b/ imageboard.[2]
  • Talk.Origins is a massive "evolutionist" newsgroup that, over the years, compiled massive amounts of evidence against creationism, evidence for evolution, and rebuttals to creationist claims. It's archive is also the premier source on the evolution-creation controversy on the web.

Not a newsgroup[edit]

  • True.Origins: True.Origins was the creationist counterpart to Talk.Origins, with (attempted) counter-rebuttals (and a mimicked Usenet-style website name).

External links[edit]


  1. alt.atheism's Trollpedia page
  2. The Birth of the Internet Troll by Ashley Feinberg (10/30/14 3:36pm) Gizmodo.