For frequently asked questions about Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:FAQ

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) are a series of questions and answers all pertaining to a certain topic. "FAQ" is sometimes pronounced as an acronym, fak, and sometimes as the initialism F.A.Q. (Since it originated in the text medium of ARPAnet mailing lists starting with SPACE Digest and spreading to USENET via the "fa" ("from arpanet") gateway in "fa.space", there is no agreed-upon pronunciation.)

The FAQ is an Internet textual tradition originating from a combination of mailing list-laziness plus speculation and a separate technical and political need within NASA in the early 1980s. The first FAQs developed over several pre-Web years starting from 1982 when storage was expensive. On the SPACE mailing list, the presumption was that new users would ftp archived past messages. In practice, this never happened. Instead, the dynamic was for mailing lists was to have users speculate rather than use very basic original sources (contacting NASA which was not part of ARPA and had only one site on the ARPAnet) to get simple answers. Repeating the "right" answers becomes tedious. A series of different measures from regularly posted messages to netlib-like query mailing daemons were set up by loosely affiliated groups of computer system adminstrators. Posting frequency started annually by Eugene Miya, then monthly, and finally weekly and daily across a variety of mailing lists and newsgroups. The first person to post a weekly FAQ was Jef Poskanzer to the USENET net.graphics/comp.graphics newsgroups. Eugene Miya experimented with the first daily FAQs. The first FAQs were initially attacked by some mailing list users for being repetitive.

On USENET, Mark Horton started a series of "Periodic Posts" {PP} which attempted to answer trivia terminolgy such as "What is 'foobar'?" with appropriate answer. Periodic summary messages posted to USENET newsgroups attempted to reduce the continual reposting of the same basic questions and associated wrong answers {yet another 'A'}. On USENET, posting questions which are covered in a group's FAQ is often considered poor netiquette, as it shows that the poster has not done the expected background reading before asking others to provide answers. Some groups may have multiple FAQs on related topics, or even two or more competing FAQs explaining a topic from different points of view.

Another factor on early ARPAnet mailing lists was netiquette wherein people asking questions typically "promised to 'summarize' received answers." Rarely were these summaries more than mere concatenations of received electronic replies with little to no quality checking.

A text consisting of questions and their answers is often called a FAQ regardless of whether the questions are actually frequently asked (if asked at all). This is done to capitalize on the fact that the concept of a FAQ has become fairly familiar online - documents of this kind are sometimes called FAAQs (Frequently Asked and Anticipated Questions). In some cases informative documents not in the traditional FAQ style have also been called FAQs. One large collection of such documents is GameFAQs, where most so-called "FAQs" have nothing in common with the meaning of the name, other than containing a FAQ (and even then, they may not be frequent, or even asked, questions).

Over time, the accumulated FAQs across all USENET news groups sparked the creation of the "*.answers" moderated newsgroups such as comp.answers, misc.answers, sci.answers, etc. for crossposting and collecting FAQs across respective comp.*, misc.*, sci.* newsgroups.

The term "FAQ", and the idea behind it, has spread offline as well, even to areas not related to the Net at all. Even bottles of bicycle chain lubricant have been marketed with accompanying leaflets titled as a "FAQ".

There are thousands of FAQs available on many subjects. Several sites catalog them and provide search capabilities -- for example, the Internet FAQ Consortium.

While the name may be recent, the format itself is quite old. For instance, Matthew Hopkins wrote The Discovery of Witches in 1647 in FAQ format. He introduces it as "Certaine Queries answered," ... Many old catechisms are in a question and answer format.

In the WWW, FAQs nowadays tend to be stored in content management systems (CMS), or in simple text files. Since 1998, a high number of specialized software has emerged, mostly written in Perl or PHP. Some of them are integrated in more complex software applications, others, like phpMyFAQ can be both run as a stand-alone-FAQ and integrated into web applications.

FAQ, also going as FA-Q and later Foolish American Quartet, were a 4 man punk/grunge band hailing from Kalamazoo Michigan from 1986 to the mid 90's. The band released several records on independant label Submission Records.

See also: fact sheet

External links

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