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5.4. What are the Usenet's top-level domains?

Usenet newsgroups are divided into broad categories. Groups that are distributed worldwide are split into seven classifications: comp, misc, news, rec, soc, sci, and talk. Each of these classifications is organized into groups and subgroups according to topic. Some hierarchies exist that are not formally a part of Usenet because they have different conventions than mainstream newsgroups. For example, One other hierarchy worth further discussion is the alt. organizational domain. The alt. groups are the most anarchic arm of the Usenet. Although some controls have been placed on the creation of new newsgroups in the "big seven" Usenet hierarchies, there are no such restrictions for alt. groups. In the interest of letting the Usenet sprawl and evolve without too many constraints, the alt. domain is the one space where newsgroups can be created without a consensus from the masses (this is covered later in the chapter); if you want a group, create it!

The results of this are, predictably, some weird groups that sometimes have no discussion within and are attempts at humor, sarcasm, or something similar. If you've ever seen the Muppet Show you might remember Jim Henson's Swedish Chef who was often caught chopping madly and saying, "bork bork bork." Someone created a newsgroup called alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork--and somehow that hit a popular note on the Net. Now there are a variety of newsgroups in the alt. domain that have similar names. Examples:

Notice that no topics are off-limits here and people often create groups that are of interest for a few weeks, or days, and then vanish.

Various sex-related groups have popped up within the alt. domain too, including,,,, and The Usenet is chockablock with acronyms; MOTSS stands for "members of the same sex," the topic covering gay, lesbian and bisexual issues and interests.

Another interesting space within the alt. domain is a set of groups that are for fans of specific individuals. The list of people is extensive (over 100) and range from people such as Dan Quayle, Rush Limbaugh, Gene Scott, and Clarence Thomas; to authors such as Tom Robbins, Dave Barry, Douglas Adams, and Piers Anthony; to musicians and music groups such as Madonna, Run DMC, Spinal Tap, Wang Chung, Devo, and Laurie Anderson. If you like a person or group, chances are someone else does too!

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