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Alt hierarchy

The alt hierarchy is one of the major class of newsgroups in Usenet, containing all newsgroups whose name begins with "alt.," organized hierarchically.

The alt hierarchy is unlike the other areas of Usenet in that it has no specific subject area, and in theory anyone can create an alt newsgroup. In practice, newsgroups that are not discussed on alt.config before being created are usually not well-propagated. Also, there is no way to delete an alt newsgroup, even if a newsgroup is created elsewhere that supersedes it.

The birth of the alt hierarchy is tied to a drastic transformation of the Usenet: the Great Renaming in 1987. The "backbone carriers," or the backbone cabal as they have been referred to by some users of the Usenet, were vital hubs in the distribution chain of most of the newsgroup postings. Their effort to change the way newsgroups are organized led to objections from some vocal Usenet users.

In particular, the creation of the talk. hierarchy for discussions of controversial or sensitive issues by the Renaming did not go well. As an alternative, the alt hierarchy was suggested by one of the cabal members, Brian Reid[?]. It was a network without the backbones, thereby free from backbones' influences on creating or not creating a new newsgroup. Some suggest that Brian Reid was also interested in starting a recipe group outside the major hierarchies. [1] (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usenet/cabal-conspiracy-FAQ/), [2] (http://www.vrx.net/usenet/history/rename/) The first newsgroup on alt hierarchy was his alt.gourmand.

The name alt is said to humorously refer to "anarchists, lunatics, and terrorists," but understood today as "alternative," by most people.

Alt has since become home for a wide variety of things that did not fit elsewhere. In particular, there are many alt.fan newsgroups, mostly devoted to discussions of the work and life of famous people: writers, musicians, and athletes have alt.fan groups. This sub-hierarchy has also been used for self-promotion by otherwise unknown people, and during a notorious trial, alt.fan.karla-homolka was created to get around the Canadian news blackout on the case.

Several extensions of the alt.* hierarchy have become quite successful on their own. A number of newsgroups have taken advantage of the freedom of the alt.* hierarchy to create a number of newsgroups that specialize on certain topics, as opposed to the broader "generic" discussions of the Big Eight hierarchy. For instance, the rec.* hierarchy may be home to the movie discussion newsgroups rec.arts.movies.current-films, rec.arts.movies.past-films, and rec.arts.movies.reviews; but the alt.movies.* hierarchy contains more focused discussion groups including alt.movies.silent, alt.movies.hitchcock, alt.movies.kubrick, and alt.movies.visual-effects.

External links

  • alt.config FAQs (http://www.faqs.org/faqs/by-newsgroup/alt/alt.config) about creating newsgroups in the alt hierarchy and related issues

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