NZB files are a lot like .torrent files - they point you to information on a network - in this case Usenet. The newsgroups work much differently than all other networks, and finding information can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But that all changed with the advent of NZB files and the arrival of Usenet newsgroup indexing sites.
The World Before NZB Files
The largest and most popular binary newsgroups can easily have hundreds of thousands of posts. That's great, it means the newsgroup is active and is teeming with life - just the kind of place you want to hang out in. To help identify a post made to a newsgroup, a header and message ID accompany it. The header contains information about the actual post, such as the server it was uploaded to, the time it was posted, and the subject of the post. In other words, the header is a representation of the article's actual content. The message ID gives each article a unique label to distinguish it from other posts made to the newsgroup.
To know the contents of a newsgroup, a news reader first needs to download headers. The traditional method of grabbing files from the newsgroup started with this step. Once the headers finish downloading, the detective work begins. Although an actual header is only a few kilobytes, downloading hundreds or thousands of headers on a dial-up connection was time consuming. Depending on the file being sought, even more time could be spent digging through several newsgroups before the proper archive was found. Despite this limitation and the fact this method was not a direct or efficient way to search, many found this to be OK; browsing the newsgroups often fetches some very interesting finds along the way. This lengthy process was just a fact of life on the newsgroups.
NZB Files: The Technical Low Down
BNS files are the files that started this indexing revolution from the folks at Binnews.com
, but their format never caught on like NZB files. They do the same thing, but NZB files had the benefit of being developed by the large Usenet indexing site Newzbin.com. NZB files tell modern news readers the exact location of an archive by instructing it on two key points: what newsgroup archive is located, and what message IDs are associated with the desired archive. NZB files also drastically reduce the bandwidth burden placed on an ISP or local network by focusing the news reader's attention on targeted posts; the need to download a burdensome number of headers in the hopes of finding the desired file was negated. Let's take a deeper look.
Figure 1: Inside The NZB File...
NZB files are made up of metadata - and its contents can be opened in any text reader like Notepad. As we can see in Figure 1, NZB files contain two important pieces of information: 1) the newsgroup the articles desired are posted, and 2) the message ID of each article (in this example, the message IDs are "numbers" 1, 2, and 3).
It's often noted that file-sharers draw similarities to NZB files and .torrent files - and to an extent, rightfully so. NZB Files are comparable to .torrent files since they both point the end user to content located on a network. There are significant differences, however. NZB files mechanically point the news reader to content - there's no hash checking involved like .torrent files. If the NZB file has an error - say the message ID range is incorrect - the news reader will download whatever message ID range the NZB file instructs and the result will be something the end user didn't want. Although the NZB files don't take advantage of hash values, well organized communities help ensure that corrupt files don't ruin the newsgroup experience. With NZB files, archives can be indexed and queried much like a .torrent file. This was yet another piece of technology that vastly improved the usability of the newsgroups.
NZB Indexing Sites
NZB files are great and all, but what good are they if they aren't organized somewhere? Wouldn't it be nice to head over to a website, conduct a search, and download an NZB file? Well today is your lucky day because we're going to talk about NZB indexing sites. The search feature of an NZB indexing site is great for targeted queries - and browsing too! Let's take a look at a well organized NZB indexing site, NZBMatrix.com (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: NZB Indexing Site...
Searchable indexing sites further escalated the mainstream usability of the newsgroups. The benefit of using NZB indexing sites, like BitTorrent websites, is the advantage of organization and user comments. If there's a corrupt or malicious article thrown in the mix, you can bet the community will report on it.
Here's the deal with NZB indexing sites: generally they are free to use, however, there are premium versions as well. NZBMatrix.com is free to use and the end user can browse, search and so on. However, by spending $10, you'll get a lifetime of extra features. One important extra is the ability to download uncompressed NZB files - the free version of NZB Matrix only supports NZB files compressed in the ZIP format. The compressed NZB file forces the end user to uncompress (or unzip) the file before importing it to the news readers alt.binz and Grabit (but not SABnzbd+, as it can unzip and read the NZB file internally). This isn't a big deal, and even if you're just starting off, it's still worthwhile just to use the free version until you're more comfortable navigating the newsgroups.
Free Indexing Sites
- Unlike conventional indexing sites, Binsearch is just a search engine that looks for articles. Once you find the articles you want, use the "create NZB" option to get the process started. Binsearch doesn't have any of the organization of a typical indexing site and doesn't hold your hand through the process. But if you know what you're doing, it's a valuable way to find information. This site is free to use.
2. NZB Index
- This site is much like Binsearch, but organizes and consolidates the results of your search queries. This makes the site easier to use, but still lacks much of the organization of Newzbin. You're pretty much on your own like Binsearch, but ultimately, this might be for the better. This site is also free to use.
- This indexing site is a good search tool for NZB files. Registration is required to access NZB files. $9.99 get's you a VIP account to all of the site's features.
- Good and relatively new NZB site with lots of goodies and promise.
- Also a very good and relatively new NZB site that has a snappy search engine and appeal.