NNTP Usenet news servers

Following the demise of the JANET Usenet NNTP service on July 31st, some users have asked if there is an alternative. Unfortunately, like other text-based Internet services, demand for this type of Usenet service using the NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) has declined rapidly as other services such as blogs, etc have gained popularity since they can be accessed from any web browser. Also, the sheer volume of data that has to be retained on Usenet servers means there is now a considerable cost attached to providing this service, the original Usenet philosophy of using 7-bit ASCII text only has on many sites has been ignored and binary files are clogging up the system and finally, since posts to Usenet uses standard email, the steady rise in junk mail and spam is making life difficult for those who operate free publicly-accessible NNTP servers.

As a result, most of these have either shut down or become private services accessible only to members of the organisation that is running the server - some will allow the public read-only access to newsgroups but will not allow posts. A number of commercial enterprises have since seized on the lack of public NNTP access and are now filling the vacuum by offering paid-for subscriptions to their servers. However, a few free public NNTP services are making a comeback by operating services that require prior registration and a user account. Once you have a username & password you can then use these in the same way as you used the JANET service.

One such service is Open News Network which is a collaborative group of NNTP server administrators who have made their servers accessible through the group. Most of the ONN website is in German but a growing amount is being translated into English. To register for an account, go to the registration page - this is mostly in German too but it should be quite obvious where to enter your details; you put your forename (Christian name) into the Vorname box, your surname into the Name box. In the text area near the bottom of the form, you are asked to explain briefly in 2 sentences why you want to use the service. I don't know what happens if you give this information in English but you will probably get a quicker registration confirmation if you wrote this in German - I did and I received the account details by email a few seconds later. If you need help composing this explanation, why not use an on-line translation service such as Babelfish?

Once you have received your account details by email, you are ready to configure your newsreader with the server address. There are currently 5 servers in the group but I would suggest you use news1.open-news-network.org as this carries the widest selection of groups - check the group list to find out if the group(s) you wish to subscribe to are carried on the servers. How you configure the server address depends on your newsreader but here is an example for Pine (Alpine will be similar).

Good luck!

Andy Thomas

UNIX/Linux support,
Faculty of Natural Sciences

last updated: 04.08.2010