If you're familiar with any of the Internet discussion groups, which are usually referred to as forums, you're familiar with the basic idea of a USENET newsgroup. In fact, the design of Internet forums owes a lot to USENET newsgroups. There are quite a few differences between the two, however. To start with, of course, a newsgroup has to be accessed over the USENET system. An Internet discussion group is accessed over the Internet and posting to the group and reading posts on the group are both done on your Internet browser. In the case of a newsgroup, both of these tasks are accomplished with a newsreader.
Generally speaking, Internet forums tend to be a bit narrower in their subject matter than are USENET newsgroups. USENET newsgroups are arranged around broad topics, and the conversations tend to be specific to those topics, but there can be many different threads and literally thousands of different articles within one USENET newsgroup. These will cover a broad range of subjects related to the overarching topic of the newsgroup. In contrast, Internet forums tend to be organized around a particular website, a particular interest or something else that is very narrow. They also tend to have far fewer members than the newsgroups.
Some USENET newsgroups have been around for many years. Most Internet forums don't last nearly that long, unless they happen to be the forums that are put up by companies in the interest of promoting their products. The USENET is a much older system than is the Internet, so many of the newsgroups have a huge following and have been available since before the consumer Internet even arrived. Where format is concerned, a USENET newsgroup also has some significant differences with Internet forums.
Most Internet forums include a lot of graphics and other content, as well as advertisements on the page where the form is hosted. USENET is a text-based system, so the posts are very small and download very quickly. The USENET system can also handle attachments, so files can be attached to posts. They are called binaries in USENET parlance.
USENET users tend to be a bit more computer savvy and are more likely to be professionals in the fields related to the newsgroups to which they're posting. For this reason, the level of discussion on newsgroups tends to be quite advanced. Moderated newsgroups also tend to be closely watched and posters who are problems are oftentimes removed quite quickly. This level of control is also sometimes seen on the Internet forums, but the crowd that moderates USENET newsgroups tends to be a bit more dedicated and more experienced at making them great places to have discussions.