[FAQ] How to Access Usenet Newsgroups from China 

(1) Introduction 

There are relatively few Usenet news servers in China.
Among those known to exist, e.g., news.cz.js.cn,
regulations are in place which restrict users from
posting. 

Unknown to most people in China, however, is that easy
web access is available for the 17 millions Internet
users in China to read and post to Usenet -- the 
largest, oldest and truly global online community 
consisting of more than 30000 discussion forums, and 
millions of regular online contributors and readers
throughout the world. 

The advent of the web (HTTP: HyperText Transfer 
Protocol) technology is making possible an integration
of China's Internet users with the global online 
communities, on a scale which is similar to the bridge
of continental divide in the late 1980s when the 
soc.*, talk.*, and rec.* newsgroups were brought to 
Europe, made possible by the emergence of
TCP-based news transfer protocols such as NNTP 
(Network News Transfer Protocol) replacing UUCP 
dial-ups. 

About a dozen web-based news servers (mostly
fee-based) are listed in a message by Barbara Pattist in: 

http://www.deja.com/getdoc.xp?AN=537213682 

Some of the web-based news servers mentioned
in the above link no longer exist.

In the following, I list four of the free sites 
which I recommend for Chinese Internet users to read 
and post to the Usenet newsgroups. These are: 
Deja.com, InterBulletin, MailGate and NewsOne. 
Their Internet host 
addresses as well as IP addresses are listed below. 

Deja.com: 
www.deja.com 
208.10.192.XXX (where XXX is any integer between 221
and 243) 

InterBulletin:
news.interbulletin.com
212.55.215.132

MailGate:
http://www.mailgate.org
212.177.105.139


Note: the IP addresses are provided only as a backup 
when a Domain Name Service fails. I have verified that
all four host addresses can be directly accessed 
from China, and no proxy service is needed. For 
example, Deja.com can be accessed using either URL: 

http://www.deja.com or http://208.10.192.221 

I myself have posted a message entitled "Internet: 
Posting and Reading from China" via deja.com when 
I was visiting Beijing in July 1999. It can be accessed
at: 

http://www.deja.com/[ST_rn=md]/threadmsg_md.xp?AN=497036353


I have also seen people from China posting to 
newsgroups like rec.travel.asia and 
alt.prophecies.nostradamus via
Deja.com or InterBulletin in the last few months. 


(2) Common Features of Web Access to Usenet 

The New York Times published an article titled "Old 
Newsgroups in New Commercial Packages" which gave a 
very good overview of these new web approaches to 
Usenet. A copy of it can be found at: 

http://www.deja.com/[ST_rn=md]/getdoc.xp?AN=497301197 

All web-based news servers (Deja.com, InterBulletin,
MailGate and NewsOne) share some common features compared to
traditional Usenet news readers such as 'rn'. 
They usually show discussions in a threaded
format which help people keeping track of
follow-ups of a subject being discussed.


Forums (or Newsgroups) 

At the homepage of Deja.com or InterBulletin
[see host addresses in part (1)], a user is 
prompted to enter a newsgroup name (e.g., 
soc.culture.china or alt.chinese.text) or a keyword 
related a forum's name (e.g., China), then click
a button. A web link to the relevant newsgroup 
(or a set of them) will be presented in the next page.
All messages in a newsgroup are grouped together by 
subjects. No prior registration is 
required for browsing, reading and searching among the
Usenet messages. 

Posting 

Registration, however, is required for the 
authorization to post messages to the Usenet 
newsgroups via Deja.com web servers.
The procedures to register are straight-forward. 
Simply click a "Registration" 
link at the home page, provide a valid E-mail address 
for validation purpose, and fill out a form, the rest
would be self-explanatory.  Deja.com allows cross-posting
to up to four newsgroups.

Cancel a Message 

Compared with a traditional Usenet news reader (e.g., 
rn), a drawback of the web-based access is that there
is no easy way to cancel a previously posted message,
even by the author of the message. Deja.com, for 
example, states that a cancelled message would still 
stay in its archive, which means that the "cancel" 
really does not do much. So attention
to details should be exercised before posting to the 
Usenet via the web-based news servers. 


(3) Special Features of Deja.com and InterBulletin

Deja.com 

Among all web-based news servers, Deja.com is unique 
in that it has an almost complete archive of all 
(at least non-local) Usenet newsgroups since 1995. 
The keyword search features of the Deja.com Usenet
archive is an invaluable research tool for technical 
people and consumers alike. For an introduction on 
how to search the Deja.com archive of Usenet
newsgroups, check out a guide from About.com at: 

http://websearch.about.com/library/weekly/aa080399a.htm


Another unique feature of Deja.com is the capability 
to view the entire discussion thread via a tree-like 
structure, which allows a reader to go from one 
message to another within the same discussion thread 
by a single click. This feature makes it easier 
to keep track of the progress of a discussion 
consisting of up to hundreds of messages. 


InterBulletin

Unlike Deja.com, InterBulletin does not keep an archive of
old messages on Usenet. It is currently available as a beta 
(experimental) version, and its features are expected to evolve.  
At any time on average, only recent messages of last 30-40 days 
can be browsed and read. It also does not have a search feature to
find recent messages using a keyword.

An advantage of InterBulletin is its relative
fast news feed. Messages posted from other sites
usually show up on the InterBulletin server in a very short
time.  InterBulletin also does not require prior
registration or authorization for posting.  However,
it imposes a limit of maximum of 5 postings totally per day
as an anti-spamming policy.


Shortcut links to the newsgroups soc.culture.china, 
talk.politics.china and alt.chinese.text can be found at: 

http://www.gateway2china.com/community/

 

(An earlier version of this article was posted on USENET at: http://www.deja.com/threadmsg_md.xp?AN=538261319)