|See also:||Mailing List, Message Board|
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Usenet is one of the oldest discussion tools for computer networks and predates the World Wide Web by almost a decade. It can be accessed using a reader such as Outlook Express or through Google groups.
Usenet groups encompassed a vast variety of topics, fannish ones represented just a fraction.
Awareness of VisibilityNewsgroups were visible to the public, something this fan in 1999 commented upon:
This ng is very public. Posting the urls for personal websites that contain slash can endanger them. There have been slash sites that were pulled by servers because they became too well known. Please, please put slash URLs in personal e-mail rather than posting them to the ng. For all you know a minor or an irate fundamentalist is reading these posts. 
Some History: Star Trek Usenet
Roger Noe was the force behind creating a group just for discussing Star Trek, and thus was created net.startrek (July 1982), which later was renamed rec.arts.startrek during "The Great Renaming" (December 1986).
When it became clear that a single group was becoming too much to sort through for useful information, rec.arts.startrek.info was voted on and created in the first part of February 1990, moderated by Jim Griffith.
In the spring of 1991, people got tired of seeing large parodies, scripts, artwork, etc in r.a.s, and there was a proposal to create a new group called rec.arts.startrek.creative. There was some controversy over copyrights (that apparently didn't matter if the same postings showed up in r.a.s) so the vote was abandoned. During the proposal and vote, someone created alt.startrek.creative, which serves the purpose, except that it is unmoderated, and only about half the sites actually carry the group.
At the end of 1991 a vote was taken to split the main group into four components (tech, fandom, current, and misc) which passed by a landslide. The groups were created early in January 1992.
In early 1993, with the high volume of posts that came with the coming of "Deep Space Nine", came two CFVs, one for r.a.s.reviews (a moderated groupfor the subset of misc and current that are objective reviews), and r.a.s.characters for discussion of the characters. The reviews group passed in early March 1993 with Mike Shappe as moderator. 
Most English-language fan-related newsgroups are in the alt.* or rec.* hierarchies.
Some 1984 CommentsFrom the June 1984 issue of Interstat:
From the May/June 1984 issue of TREKisM #36:I would like to share my discovery of USENET, a nation-wide computer net accessible from many university mainframe computers and other entry terminals. There is a Star Trek interest group [net.startrek] consisting of people all over the country with computer terminals and some way of getting on the net. There is also a group for shuttle news [net.Columbia] and space news [net.space]. Timely information is posted by people with access to it. One can ask a question to be answered by anyone on the net who happens to know. If any readers have accounts on a large mainframe which participates in Mail, I would be delighted to correspond. My mail path is [...!ucbvax!sdcsvax!sdccsu3isdeatt- b!mel41]. Make the headerTo Alice because I share the account with a colleague who also gets mail. 
USENET is a computer bulletin board which can be accessed from large mainframe computers at universities and some corporate centers. Users with personal computers or a home terminal and modem can link in if they have an account in one of the mainframe computers. The net has dozens of interest groups to which any user can subscribe and post news. The net.startrek interest group is quite active. As far as I know, I'm the only female user. Anyone with an account can get news either by setting up an automatic subscription or by calling up % readnews-n net. startrek (The commands may vary depending on what machine you are on, but the system is basically UNIX operating.) 
Some 1990s CommentsFrom a mid-1990s Media Monitor:
Newsgroups are like online bulletin boards. You go to the site, read all the postings and respond if you want. It is suggested you read only (lurk) for the first few days os you can get an idea of the appropriate subject matter open for discussion. Some series have two or more Newsgroups: one for discussion of the series, and another for posting and discussion of fiction, for instance. Keep in mind, Newsgroups are open to everyone, from minors to the the production staff of the series/movie; there for advertising your latest slash zine may not be in your best interest. Before asking any question in a Newsgroup, you should always read their FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), so you don't inadvertently ask a question that has been answered ten times before you posted it. If you don't see the FAQ list when you first visit the Newsgroup, post and ask where you can get a copy of it.
Some 2010 Comments
I miss Usenet. Well, no, I miss Usenet's *speed and usability.* Every time I open a web-based discussion board, I wish somebody would make a threaded newsreader for the web that would work as fast and as gracefully as trn. "Yes, I'd like to read that conversation, and that one, and that one, please, and this one is about something I don't like, so I'll skip it, and I hate that person so I've got my killfile set so that their posts and anybody's replies to them don't show up *at all,* and it takes me a few seconds to select everything I want to read and once I start reading I just press one button to instantly scroll through." I read really, really fast, and I so much hate having to expand threads and click on the next page and such. It's *amazing* how much info you could read and process quickly on Usenet. Then, of course, the spammers got to it. Sigh. 
I can reliably spot age among people who all look 'about my age' by who can, without even thinking about it, spell anonymous correctly off the tops of their heads. BTW, I'm a child of the very beginning of the Endless September: I got my first email account, through college, in fall 1993. And spent the next two years on MOO/MUCK/MUDs and Usenet. I very nearly had an alt.fan group at one point; the folks in alt.alt.alt thought I was funny enough that someone officially proposed 'alt.fan.podgirl' (which is what I was going by then) ... but the Usenet mod at my school refused to add it, so that never went anywhere. 
Some 2016 Comments
The different fanfic eras explained as lunch:
Pre-internet era: You walk into a room and sit down at a table. Someone brings you a turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda. Perhaps you are a vegetarian, or gluten-free. Doesn’t matter; you get a turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda.
Usenet era: You walk into a room and sit down to your turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a soda. Someone tells you that over at the University they are also serving BLTs, pizza, coffee, and beer.
Web 1.0 (aka The Great Schism): You walk into a room. The room is lined with 50 unmarked doors. Someone tells you, “We have enough food to feed you and a hundred more…but we’ve scattered it behind these fifty doors. Good luck!”Web 2.0 (present): You walk into a room. Someone points at the buffet and says, “Enjoy!” You turn to see a 100-foot-long buffet table, piled high with every kind of food imaginable. To be fair, some of the food is durian, head cheese, and chilled monkey brains, but that’s cool, some people are into those…and trust me, they are even more psyched to be here than you are. 
- Mailing lists and Archives and Usenet..., discussion at alt.tv.x-files.creative, June 29, 1997
- We are family. by The Divine Adoratrice (August 8, 1999)
- List of Usenet Newsgroups
- comments between January and May 1995 at newgroups/rec/rec.arts, Archived version
- Shomeret at POLL:The best HL fanfic author on the net, alt.tv.highlander.creative, November 11, 1999
- StarTrek TREKFAQS, Archived version
- from Interstat #80
- from TREKisM #36
- hradzka, comment at the good old days before google were dark and involved horses (2010)
- synecdochic, comment at the good old days before google were dark and involved horses (2010)
- almeda, comment at the good old days before google were dark and involved horses (2010)
- berlynn-wohl.tumblr, February 29, 2016