Newsgroups originated as a way of communicating ideas amongst people interested in a topic. The Newsgroup system was based on the Bulletin Board System (BBS) which was essentially a virtual version of a basic cork-board bulletin board. With Newsgroups though, the bulletin board was made available worldwide through the web because it was not stored on just one server.
Since the idea of Newgroups was thought up in 1979, internet communication technology has vastly expanded. There are numerous ways to communicate with others on the web, including through forums. In a lot of ways, forums look just like Newsgroups. They consist of various users who post their ideas and comments on certain themes. The themes can be broken down into subcategories as different topic threads. Like with Newsgroups, forums can be moderated or unmoderated.
The main difference between Newsgroups and forums is that Newsgroups are not hosted by one website. Instead, the articles on the Newsgroups are taken from an original site and put onto a participating site. The articles (also called posts) at a Newsgroup are constantly being exchanged amongst servers in a way that mimics email. Thus, Newsgroups can be viewed as something between email and forums. In order to access a Newsgroup, you must know the server address and have a newsreader. To join a Newsgroup, you don’t have to have any sort of personal registration or ID. You just need to have a news client, which is often available through an internet provider. With forums, anyone can access the discussion through the internet browser but usually must be registered in order to participate.
Even with these structural differences, Newsgroups and forums still seem remarkably similar. However, the purpose of Newsgroups and forums tends to be vastly different and thus affects the quality of the content.
Newsgroups originated as a way of sharing information on specific topics. They precursor even the World Wide Web as a method of communication. It is hard for us today to imagine how revolutionary Newgroups were in 1980 when they first were launched. Keep in mind that this was a decade before the World Wide Web. Newsgroups were not about capitalizing on technology but truly connecting people. In today’s realm of WWW, we take communication for granted.
Forums were based on the Newsgroup idea but the purpose of them was mostly for promoting the parent site. By allowing website visitors to participate in the site by making comments or starting discussions, the website gained user value and free content. Because forums are open to anyone (though some forums have registration policies), the content tends not to be as specific and the members of a forum not as tight-knit of a group. The easy accessibility of forums also compromises the quality of the information posted. Posts are usually just a few sentences long compared to the more in-depth articles which make it to the niche-specific and community oriented Newsgroups.