Book Bytes
MyMac Magazine #27

What’s On the Internet:
The Definitive Guide to the Internet’s
Usenet Newsgroups
Author: Eric Gagnon
Peachpit Press, ISBN 0-201-88627-8
$19.95 USA, $27.00 CAN

What’s On the Internet, Third Edition,
should actually be entitled What’s On Usenet. The “Internet” of this book refers almost exclusively to the thousands of Internet Newsgroups (online discussion groups), collectively called Usenet. Given this understanding, it is a fine book.

The content, design, and listings are excellent, and the writing style is
clear and direct. A 5-digit Jump Code, accessible from the JumpCity page on the World Wide Web (, provides immediate access to the book’s compendium.

A companion set of two-page spreads, “How a Newsgroup Works,” and “The World of the Net,” provide an intense, capsule glimpse at: The Web, Threads, FAQs,Usenet, Newbies, Net Shorthand, and plenty more. A sideways-turned page, “What’s Good about the Net/And What’s Not” gets right to the point: Freedom, Individuality, Opportunity, and Information; versus Anarchy, Mediocrity, Exploitation, and Innuendo.

The majority of this book consists of thousands of listings, starting with
“FAQ Files” and “Internet Resources.” Newsgroup descriptions are followed by the appropriate FAQ URLs (Internet addresses for answers to frequently asked questions), 25,000 of them!

Photographs and artwork are plentiful, always giving the Jump Code source from the Net. The book is liberally illustrated, and it includes additional sidebar “NETBITES,” which are actual excerpts from specific newsgroups.

The volume has a similar style to the original NetGuide book, from 1994, except What’s On the Internet is all Newsgroups and related FTPs. Also, this book feels like a bunch of Newsgroups, with a mix of fact, opinion, images, and semi-random organization. What will be totally new to many readers are the extensive ClariNet listings of fee-based hard news.

The majority of the sites included are based in the United States, but there
is an international “Cultural Talk and News” section. Usenet has an
inherently international aspect, so citations from many countries spice up
the book, with an “International Newsgroups” section ranging from Australia to Switzerland.

Like the most popular groups in the Usenet universe, this book is very strong on music, movies, radio, and television. There are good listings under Education, complete from K-12 through postgraduate, plus the subjects of Computers and Computing are explored extensively.

Internauts looking for weird and bizarre destinations will find plenty of ’em in Chapter 13 (of course), “Off the Wall.” For readers with good eyesight, Chapter 14: Newsgroup Alpha Directory, claims to have, in 34 pages, the “complete listing of over 15,000 newsgroups on the Internet, in alphabetical order (magnifying glass not included), except for sexually explicit groups.” Chapter 15 is a premier Master Newsgroup Subject Index & Finder, using keywords to assist in location.

John’s Opinion

For a reader comfortable with Usenet and FTP, locating familiar sites comes quickly. Newcomers to Usenet are advised to become acquainted with a few Newsgroups before participating actively. This book is a rewarding investment of time and energy, with plenty of worthwhile information for even the most seasoned veteran.

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