Google Groups screenshot
|Operating system||Cross-platform (web-based application)|
electronic mailing lists
Google Groups is a service from Google that supports discussion groups, including many Usenet newsgroups, based on common interests. Membership in Google Groups is free of charge and many groups are anonymous. Users can find discussion groups related to their interests and participate in threaded conversations, either through a web interface or by e-mail. They can also start new groups. Google Groups also includes an archive of Usenet newsgroup postings dating back to 1981 and supports reading and posting to Usenet groups. Users can also set up mailing list archives for e-mail lists that are hosted elsewhere.
In February 2001, Google acquired Deja News, which provided a search engine to access an archive of Usenet newsgroup articles. Users were then able to access these Usenet newsgroups through the new Google Groups interface. By the end of 2001 the archive had been supplemented with other archived messages dating back to 11 May 1981. These early posts from 1981-1991 were donated to Google by the University of Western Ontario, based on archives by Henry Spencer from the University of Toronto. Shortly after, Google released a new version, which allowed users to create their own (non-Usenet) groups.
In February 2006, Google modified the interface of Google Groups, adding profiles and post ratings.
Sometime around 2008 or 2009 Google also began removing and censoring entire Usenet groups in the alt.* category.
Google provides two distinct kinds of groups: traditional Usenet groups, and non-Usenet groups that are more similar to mailing lists. The Google Groups user interface and help messages do not use a distinct name for mailing-list style groups, referring to both styles of group as "Google Groups".
The two kinds of groups differ both in the technology used and how they are governed. The Google Groups user interface encourages users to create new mailing-list-style groups, but does not provide any way to create a Usenet group.
A Usenet group is decentralized and not hosted by any single organization. Many organizations other than Google allow Usenet groups to be read with newsreader software that uses the NNTP protocol. Most Usenet groups are unmoderated. Google recognizes the X-No-Archive header and displays messages containing it for only seven days, after which the article becomes no longer available to the public. Google also recognizes the "-- " Usenet signature delimiter, and removes the significant space at the end (thus, proper Usenet signatures can't be added to articles posted via Google Groups).
A regular Google Group is hosted by Google. These groups can be accessed using a web browser or by subscribing to receive email, but can't be accessed via the NNTP protocol with a Usenet news reader. Non-Usenet Groups have one or more owners who decide whom is allowed to subscribe to the group and whether non-members can access the group. This form of governance is similar to that provided by many other mailing list providers. Google Groups also allow for a group to be an archive of a group hosted on another mailing list server.
Google has created several official help groups for some of its services, such as Gmail. In these groups, users can ask and answer questions about the relevant Google service. Each official group has a Google representative who occasionally responds to queries. Google representatives always have a blue G symbol in their nicknames.
Some official groups include:
There are also help forums, which appear to have different functionality from Google Groups:
The late Lee Rizor, also known as "Blinky the Shark," started the Usenet Improvement Project, a project which is highly critical of Google Groups and its users. The project aims to "make Usenet participation a better experience." They have accused Google Groups of turning a blind eye to an "increasing wave of spam" from its servers and of encouraging an Eternal September of "lusers" and "lamers" arriving in established groups en masse. The Usenet Improvement Project provides several killfile examples to block messages posted by Google Groups users in several newsreaders.
For about one week starting August 19, 2009, Google Groups did not send new articles to moderation for moderated Usenet groups such as
comp.lang.c++.moderated, causing a severe reduction of traffic in those groups. A second such outage occurred from September 16–23, 2009. A Google representative acknowledged the problem on September 22, 2009 in a posting to the Google help forums.
Since November 24, 2009, outages still persist on Google Groups. Pages are being lost the moment they are published and e-mail notifications are yielding broken links. Even though the "Is Something Broken" support forum is full of complaints, Google has not acknowledged or acted to fix the problem. Prolific Google Groups user Nomadic Psyche has suggested that the source is "a major flaw with the Gooble [sic] replication technology that is not replicating changes I make to the internet [sic]."
Google Groups has been blocked in Turkey on April 10, 2008 by the order of a court in Turkey. According to The Guardian, the court banned Google Groups following a libel complaint by Adnan Oktar against the service. Google Groups was the first of several websites to be blocked by the Turkish Government in rapid succession solely for including material which allegedly offended Islam.