Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

5.26. How do I start a Usenet group?

It's simple to actually create a Usenet newsgroup, but it is a much more complicated matter to have your newsgroup accepted by the Usenet community, allowed onto the millions of Internet hosts, and actually read.

It is simplest to create an alt. hierarchy newsgroup and have it accepted. The sprawling alt. newsgroups are largely unregulated. Although it is considered polite to post to alt.config a message requesting comments on the creation of a newsgroup, it's clear to anyone who watches as new alt. newsgroups magically appear (without so much as a hint of discussion on alt.config) that this doesn't happen all the time. If the general consensus is that the group should be created, talk to your news administrator about actually creating it.

The ability to create newsgroups on the spur of the moment often leads to newsgroups that are silly, or very topical. For instance, a newsgroup for discussion of the January, 1994, Los Angeles earthquake appeared only moments after the first shake.

The guidelines for creating local newsgroups may differ depending on where you are. Users in some areas may enforce complex rules for group creation or have a more lax attitude. Find out your area's rules (written or unwritten) before you create your own group for discussion of the wanton destruction of lemming habitat in the greater Walla Walla area.

No matter what hierarchy your newsgroup is part of or how it is created, the decision whether to allow a newsgroup on a given computer on the Internet rests with the administrator of that machine. Some systems hand pick which newsgroups are invited in; some let them all in.

Before you create a Usenet group or start a discussion about creating one, make sure that no such group already exists. With upward of 7,000 newsgroups out there, there's a very good chance there's already a place to talk about what you want to talk about.

If you think your newsgroup should exist as part of one of the standard Usenet hierarchies--comp, misc, news, rec, sci, soc or talk--your task is more complicated and convoluted:

First, a request for discussion (RFD) on creation of a new newsgroup should be posted to news.announce.newgroups and also to any other groups or mailing lists that are related to the proposed topic. Follow-up discussion should take place on news.groups. During the discussion period, several things need to be ironed out, including the name and charter of the proposed group and whether it will be moderated or unmoderated. If it's to be moderated, who should the moderator be?

If there is no general agreement on these points among the proponents of a new group at the end of 30 days of discussion, the debate should be taken out of news.groups and sent into e-mail for further deliberation. Luckily, you're not defenseless in the world of newsgroup creation: group advocates seeking help in choosing a name to suit the proposed charter or looking for guidance in the creation procedure can send a message to A few seasoned news administrators there may assist you.

Once all the preceding has been agreed on, and it is determined that the new newsgroup is really desired, a call for votes should be posted to news.announce.newgroups and any other places where interested parties are likely to read. There are various procedures for taking votes, but the vote period should be from 21 to 31 days. The exact date that the voting period will end should be stated in the call for votes. Only votes e-mailed to the vote-taker count; votes posted to the Usenet or mailing lists can't be counted.

At the end of the voting period, the vote taker must post the vote tally and the e-mail addresses of the voters to news.announce.newgroups and the newsgroups where the original call for votes was posted. After the vote result is posted, there is a five-day waiting period, during which the Net has a chance to correct any major errors or raise serious objections.

After the waiting period, and if at least two-thirds of the total number of valid votes are in favor of creation and there are 100 more "yes" votes than "no" votes, the newsgroup may be created. If the 100-vote margin or two-thirds percentage is not met, the group should not be created and the topic should not be brought up for discussion for at least six months.

Whew! That was the Reader's Digest condensed version. For the full story, read How to Create a New Usenet Newsgroup, a document that will tell you everything you wanted to know (and more) about creating a new newsgroup. It is available on Usenet at news.announce.newusers, news.announce.newusers, news.groups, news.admin.misc, news.announce.newgroups, and news.answers; by e-mail to (in the message body send usenet/news.announce.newusers/How_to_Create_a_New_Usenet_Newsgroup); and by anonymous FTP to

To find out more about creating an alt. group, read So You Want to Create an Alt Newsgroup, a guide for anyone interested in creating a newsgroup within the alt.* hierarchy. It is posted every 14 days to alt.config and news.answers.

For a cynical and humorous list of how not to go about creating a newsgroup, read Emily Postnews answers your questions on how to create a new alt. group, which is also posted periodically to alt.config and news.answers.

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