In addition to text based newsgroups loaded with discussions on virtually any topic the mind can conceive, Usenet is also home to a plethora of user generated content in the for of music, videos, software and eBooks. All of these types of files are referred to as binaries as they are digital files stored in the binary newsgroups on the Usenet. Binary files are handled much like an email message with an attachment that is posted or sent to a particular binary newsgroup. In practice one binary file, say a user generated mp3 file, will be spanned across multiple Usenet articles that contain encoded text that when put together make up the mp3 file as a whole. Let’s look at a real world example to make understanding this concept clear. Say you have just gotten back from your family vacation and you have a full CD loaded with fun filled videos and pictures that you would like to share with friends on the other side of the globe that also use Usenet. A full CD is equal to about 650 megabytes of binary digital information. Just like email, 650 megabytes is too large to attach to a single email and must be broken into smaller parts and sent in multiple emails. A single CD would be made up of hundreds of encoded newsgroup text articles.
What are alt.binaries
Binaries are files that are in newsgroups but have been encoded so they can be transmitted over the Internet. They require special software to decode them. They can be almost anything. Pictures, programs, word processing or spreadsheet files, or almost anything else.
At some point in the history of Usenet, someone wanted to send files besides text to the groups, just as you would attach a picture to an email message you sent a friend. Since Usenet messages do not support attachments, people started to use programs to convert their binary data like images, videos, and software into one or more text emails, by using a known binary-to-text encoding algorithm such as Base-64 or yEnc encoding. Users who viewed the messages could then use software to decode them back into their original binary form, and view the image or video.
In the alt.binaries hierarchy you will find hundreds of newsgroups dedicated to any topic you can think of and to sharing binaries associated with that topic.
The “alt” in alt.binaries stands for the “alternative” hierarchy. There are eight major hierarchies. They are the “comp”, “soc”, “misc”, “news”, “rec”, “humanities”, “sci” and “talk” hierarchies.
The “alt” hierarchy is a major Usenet hierarchy with a massive variety newsgroups
The alt.binaries hierarchy is further subdivided into newsgroups, such as: alt.binaries.pictures, alt.binaries.sounds, alt.binaries.multimedia, alt.binaries.games, alt.binaries.dvd. These groups can be further subdivided into more specific newsgroups, such as: alt.binaries.games.xbox; alt.binaries.pictures.scenic.amateur and so on…