26 March 2017

Public news servers

This article is based on material authored by members of the news.newusers.questions Moderation Board and nnq-workers mailing list.

If your news server does not carry a particular newsgroup that you want to read, you may be able to read that group on a news server that allows access from the public (and not just its own customers).

Free lunches are scarce

Before you set out to find a so-called public news server, you should be aware that many such servers are not intentionally public. Inadvertently configuring a news server so that outsiders can connect to it is a mistake inexperienced administrators often make. Eventually, they will notice their error and shut off outside access. This is especially likely to happen if the server carries any alt.binaries groups.

Most organizations that run news servers do not want usage by outsiders to degrade service to their own employees, students or customers. In addition, most organizations do not appreciate being used as a conduit for unsavoury activities. Therefore, if you do find a ‘public’ news server carrying newsgroups that you want, please:

  • Do not hog that server’s resources by downloading scores of articles, especially large binaries.
  • Do not use that server to disguise your identity and location so that you can post abusive messages, spam newsgroups with advertisements, etc.
  • Do not be surprised when you eventually get the message, ‘sorry, this server can’t talk to you’.

If you want reliable access to a large number of newsgroups, including binaries, then you should look for a commercial service provider that carries what you want, and pay for it.