Google Groups

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Google Groups
Logo Google groups.png
Google Groups screenshot

Google Groups screenshot
Written inJava[1]
TypeNewsgroups, electronic mailing lists
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Google Groups
Logo Google groups.png
Google Groups screenshot

Google Groups screenshot
Written inJava[1]
TypeNewsgroups, electronic mailing lists

Google Groups is a service from Google Inc. that provides discussion groups for people sharing common interests. The Groups service also provides a gateway to Usenet newsgroups via a shared user interface.

Google Groups became operational in February 2001, following Google's acquisition of Deja's Usenet archive. (Deja News had been operational since 1995.)

Google Groups offers at least two kinds of discussion group; in both cases users can participate in threaded conversations, either through a web interface or by e-mail. The first kind are forums specific to Google Groups which are inaccessible by NNTP and act more like mailing lists.[2] The second kind are Usenet groups, for which Google Groups acts as gateway and unofficial archive (the Google Groups archive of Usenet newsgroup postings dates back to 1981[3]). Through the Google Groups user interface, users can read and post to Usenet groups.[4] Despite the archive and gateway, Google Groups does not currently provide a means of accessing Usenet via groups for NNTP. Google seemingly also does not respond to externally generated control messages.

In addition to accessing Google and Usenet groups, registered users can also set up mailing list archives for e-mail lists that are hosted elsewhere.[5]


Deja News[edit]

The Deja News logo as it appeared in 1997.

Prior to the acquisition of its archive by Google (in 2001) the Deja News Research Service was an archive of messages posted to Usenet discussion groups, started in March 1995 by Steve Madere in Austin, Texas. Its powerful search engine capabilities won the service acclaim, generated controversy, and significantly changed the perceived nature of online discussion.

While archives of Usenet discussions had been kept for as long as the medium existed, Deja News offered a novel combination of features. It was available to the general public, provided a simple World Wide Web user interface, allowed searches across all archived newsgroups, returned immediate results, and retained messages indefinitely. The search facilities transformed Usenet from a loosely organized and ephemeral communication tool into a valued information repository. The archive's relative permanence, combined with the ability to search messages by author, raised concerns about privacy and confirmed oft-repeated past admonishments that posters should be cautious in discussing themselves and others.[6]

While Madere was initially reluctant to remove archived material, protests from users and legal pressure led to the introduction of "nuking", a method for posters to permanently remove their own messages from search results. It already supported the use of an "X-No-Archive" message header, which if present would cause an article to be omitted from the archive. This did not prevent others from quoting the material in a later message and causing it to be stored. Copyright holders were also allowed to have material removed from the archive. According to Humphrey Marr of Deja News, copyright actions most frequently came from the Church of Scientology.[7] The capability to 'nuke' postings other than for obvious abuse was later removed from the UI under Google's tenure.

Change of direction[edit]

The logo used from 1999.

The service was eventually expanded beyond search. My Deja News offered the ability to read Usenet in the traditional chronological, per-group manner, and to post new messages to the network. Deja Communities were private Internet forums offered primarily to businesses. In 1999 the site (now known as sharply changed direction and made its primary feature a shopping comparison service. During this transition, which involved relocation of the servers, many older messages in the Usenet archive became unavailable. By late 2000 the company, in financial distress, sold the shopping service to eBay, who incorporated the technology into their service.

Google Groups[edit]

By 2001, the Deja search service was shut down. In February 2001, Google acquired Deja News (and its archive), and transitioned its assets to[8] 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 May 11, 1981.[9][10][11] 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.[12] A short while later, Google released a new version, which allowed users to create their own (non-Usenet) groups.

When AOL discontinued access to Usenet around 2005, it recommended Google Groups instead.[13]

In February 2006, Google modified the interface of Google Groups, adding profiles and post ratings.

In October 2010, Google announced it would be dropping support for welcome messages, pages, and files effective January 2011.[14][15]

In December 2010, Google rolled out a new UI preview with more GMail/Reader-like functionality.

In March 2012, Google completed the new UI design process and added the facility to add members to Google-specific groups directly, without any invitation.

In October 2012, the ability to report 'illegal' content was removed from the Google Groups UI.

On June 26, 2013 Google Groups released a new version.[16]


Google claims to provide a tool for removing old postings at but according to postings on Google's own Help forum for Groups (now archived) this tool ceased to work around 2009 (and as of Dec 2013 is seemingly abandoned), reporting a 'Not Found' or 404 error for some users, with no obvious response from Google as to the cause of the removal or termination.


Google no longer has a help forum for its Google Groups product, just Groups Help. (The former Google Groups Help Forum was shut down in around 2010 and is now available only as an archive.[17][18])

In 2011 Google (in relation to its Groups archive) was criticised in an article by e-week Canada[19][clarification needed] where it was claimed that Google had refused to remove troll content which had falsely claimed that named individuals were guilty of sex crimes against children. The targets of the trolling claimed in the article that Google refused to remove content, Google's response apparently being "Register websites, write good articles about yourself, and buy some advertising from us, which will improve your ranking."[19]

Slashdot and Wired contributors have criticized Google for its inattention to a search engine for Google Groups, leaving many older postings virtually inaccessible.[20][21][22]

Concerns have also occasionally been raised about the apparent non-responsiveness of Google to concerns about content on Groups. However, given the general anarchic nature of Usenet, Google itself is not generally responsible for the content it archives. Although Google has removed or suppressed specific instances of mass abuse, it does not routinely monitor the groups service,[23] nor is it under any obligation to do so. As a US-based organisation Google is also nominally subject to Section 230 safe harbour protection, which prevents a service provider being held responsible for user-generated content it hosts.

It has been suggested by some[who?] that Google's abuse-handling falls considerably short of that expected of such a major provider, resulting in abusive content remaining on Google's servers indefinitely. Google's archival of alt.* groups has also led to concerns[who?] that it may be inadvertently archiving extremist material, or material which supports illegal sexual exploitation, without Google's operational or technical staff being aware such material is present within both Google-specific groups or in the Usenet groups to which it act as a gateway and unofficial archive.

Despite Google's archiving of Usenet groups, the Groups service does not seemingly respond to control messages. This means that such messages generated by other Usenet gateways, typically for abuse prevention or legal reasons, are largely ignored.


Google Groups was blocked in Turkey since April 10, 2008 by the order of a court in Turkey.[24] 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.[25] It is currently available in Turkey.[contradiction][citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google groups utilise Java
  2. ^ "How do I create my own group?". Google Groups Help Center. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ "How far back does Google's Usenet archive go?". Google Groups Help Center. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ "What is a Usenet Newsgroup?". Google Groups Help Center. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Can I use Google Groups to archive another mailing list?". Google Groups Help Center. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  6. ^ Chuq Von Rospach. A Primer on How to Work With the Usenet Community. Usenet introductory document posted regularly until 1999.
  7. ^ George Lawton (January 1997). Internet archives: Who's doing it? And can you protect your privacy?. SunWorld.
  8. ^ "Google Acquires Usenet Discussion Service and Significant Assets from". Google. February 12, 2001. 
  9. ^ "20 Year Archive on Google Groups". Google. December 11, 2001. 
  10. ^ "Full Usenet archive now available". Pandia. April 29, 2001. 
  11. ^ "Digital history saved". BBC News Online. December 14, 2001. 
  12. ^ Katharine Mieszkowski (January 7, 2002). "The Geeks Who Saved Usenet". Salon (website). 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Google Groups drops support for pages". 
  15. ^ "Notice about Pages and Files". Google. Sep 22, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Google Groups relaunched with new tools". Hindustan Times. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  17. ^!forum/google-groups-guide
  18. ^!topic/groupsknownissues/vqoVQ-zIffM
  19. ^ a b "IT in Canada - Canada's Only Integrated Social Media News Network". 2011-02-25. Retrieved 2013-03-06. [dead link]
  20. ^ "How to Search Today's Usenet For Programming Information". Slashdot. November 9, 2008. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  21. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (October 7, 2009). "Google’s Abandoned Library of 700 Million Titles". Wired. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (October 8, 2009). "Google Begins Fixing Usenet Archive". Wired. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Google Terms of Service – Policies & Principles – Google". 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2013-03-06. 
  24. ^ "Turkey bans Google Groups". Today's Zaman. April 12, 2008. Retrieved August 10, 2010. [dead link]
  25. ^ Butt, Riazat (September 18, 2008). "Turkish court bans Richard Dawkins website". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 3, 2010. 


External links[edit]