For many years now peer to peer support for Microsoft products and services has been provided in newsgroups using the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP ).

Over the last couple of years Microsoft has slowly been moving many of these peer to peer groups to a forums based medium.  Microsoft Answers and the Windows Live Solution Center are two examples. You can see the entire list of forums available from Microsoft at the Microsoft Communities Forum Home.

In their official announcement of this transition, Microsoft explains the background and reasoning for this shift:

Microsoft has a long history of establishing newsgroups that channel users and issues into the newsgroup (NNTP) space where information is shared and problems can be addressed by the community. Currently, Microsoft hosts more than 2000 public newsgroups that cover virtually all of our products, along with more than 2,200 private newsgroups that reach specific audiences including Certgen, SBSC, Partner Programs, MVPs and Direct Access, among others.

Meanwhile, customers are turning online more and more for information and help. Microsoft is revamping its communities to make it easy for customers to find help and information when they need it. Using forums as the online support strategy will reduce the number of redundant resources and centralize content, making community contributions more broadly available and impactful.

Beginning in June 2010, Microsoft will begin closing newsgroups and migrating users to Microsoft forums that include Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN. This move will centralize content, make it easier for contributors to retain their influence, reduce redundancies and make content easier to find. Overall, forums offer a better spam management platform that will improve customer satisfaction by encouraging a healthy discussion space.

Now I know a lot of MVP’s and other users like using newsgroups for providing peer to peer support as it is a very quick process to grab newsgroup headers, scan them and then post replies via your newsreader of choice.  With forums it means interacting with them via a web based interface and dealing with the delays, issues that might be part of your Internet connection that day.

However, Microsoft has been working on an interface called the Microsoft Forums NNTP Bridge which is available at Microsoft Connect as a beta download.  This interface connects your favorite newsreader with the web based Microsoft Forums and allows you to continue to work from within your newsreader instead of via a web browser.  The bridge is in beta so there are a few bugs and if your willing to download it and put it to use Microsoft would very much appreciate your feedback and bug reports.

Bottom line is this is happening and there is no getting away from it. So my recommendation is that you shift your focus over to the forums and get used to them as they are going to be the norm by Fall 2010. Of course, you could always keep using the newsgroups and wait until your forced to make the shift. Again, I am a fan of getting moved now and then you will be up to speed when the closure of the newsgroups happen. Then you can be there already as everyone else makes the shift.