Contributed by Jose (teacherjh at aol dot com).
Usenet is a subset of the internet; it is something like the original message board. It is typically accessed through software (a newsreader) very similar to (and often bundled with) Email software. I use Netscape 7.2, which is a suite of programs that includes a newsreader.
When the web became popular (the web is another subset of the internet), somebody figured out that they could make a site that displays usenet content as a web page, and let people post messages to usenet by posting on a web page. Often they "brand" it as their own, and in doing so, they deceive users into thinking they are getting content from the website, when in fact they are just being given another interface to the existing usenet newsgroups. In all fairness, some web sites do have their own message boards that are not connected with Usenet, but some do not (or do both), and the difference is not apparant to those using the web interface.
Google bought the Usenet archives and provides an interface to text groups, but they don't do a good job of it, and they hide what it really is. "Google groups" are just newsgroups in drag.
Subscribing to a Usenet group through a newsreader merely indicates to the newsreader that it should download messages from the group on command. A subscription is basically an entry in a file that tells the newsreader what newsgroup you want to read. The word "Join" makes people feel like "members" of the website that is palming off the newsgroup as its own. But it means pretty much the same thing, except that (I believe) the website keeps track for you.
I think one of the reasons they do this is to confuse people, because confused people can be sold a bill of goods.
Great site Blinky. Keep up the good work. I just killed 54 Google posts. The slaughter continues unabated. – James E. Morrow
I didn't think anyone could top the annual autumn spewage when college classes resumed--then along came the AOL/WebTV crowd. They're now morphing into GoogleGropers, like some biblical sequence of plagues. – Harold Stevens
I've finally had to join the Usenet Improvement Project, it took me a very long time to do so but I finally became convinced yesterday. I've been analyzing posts from GG and have to agree the percent that contain useful info is way too small to worry about. – XS11E
From my own informal sampling, the trash from Google _far_ outweighs the treasure and I'll gladly accept a few losses. – John McGaw
An ungodly large number of numbskulls use google groups and think they're posting to "Google Groups" when they're posting to USENET. – Magus
I finally gave up and I'm blocking google groups posters. Ever since I dropped Google Groups, the world has become a better place. – Evan Platt