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Usenet information is stored in newsgroups. Many thousands of newsgroups cover every conceivable topic. Newsgroups are organized hierarchically. The most basic categories are known as top-level hierarchies. There are eight international top-level hierarchies also known as the Big 8:

  • comp.* - computer-related discussions
  • news.* - discussions regarding Usenet itself
  • rec.* - discussions regarding recreation (like hobbies, games, sports)
  • sci.* - discussions of scientific topics
  • soc.* - for socializing or social discussions
  • talk.* - discussions of contentious topics like religion or politics
  • humanities.* - literature, religion, philosophy
  • misc.* - for discussions not suitable to the earlier mentioned newsgroups

Unique top-level hierarchies exist in most countries. Discussions in these newsgroups normally take place in the local language. For example

  • de.* - German newsgroups
  • nl.* - Dutch newsgroups
  • be.* - Belgium newgroups
  • es.* Spanish newsgroups
  • us.* - United States newsgroups

The alt-hierarchy – alt.* hierarchy - is a large top-level hierarchy and it covers newsgroups of any subject or type.