Frequently asked questions (FAQ) or Questions and Answers (Q&A), are listed questions and answers, all supposed to be commonly asked in some context, and pertaining to a particular topic. The format is commonly used on email mailing lists and other online forums, where certain common questions tend to recur.
While the name may be recent, the FAQ format itself is quite old. For instance, wrote The Discovery of Witches in 1647 as a list of questions and answers, introduced as "Certaine Queries answered". Many old are in a question-and-answer (Q&A) format. , written by in the second half of the 13th century, is a series of common questions about Christianity to which he wrote a series of replies. are even older.
The "FAQ" is an internet textual tradition originating from the technical limitations of early mailing lists from in the early 1980s. The first FAQ developed over several pre-Web years starting from 1982 when storage was expensive. On ARPAnet's SPACE mailing list, the presumption was that new users would download archived past messages through In practice, this rarely happened and the users tended to post questions to the mailing list instead of searching its archives. Repeating the "right" answers becomes tedious, and went against developing . A series of different measures were set up by loosely affiliated groups of computer system administrators, from regularly posted messages to -like query The acronym FAQ was developed between 1982 and 1985 by Eugene Miya of NASA for the SPACE mailing list. The format was then picked up on other mailing lists and Usenet news groups. Posting frequency changed to monthly, and finally weekly and daily across a variety of mailing lists and newsgroups. The first person to post a weekly FAQ was to the Eugene Miya experimented with the first daily FAQ.
Meanwhile, on had started a series of "Periodic Posts" (PP) which attempted to answer trivial questions with appropriate answers. Periodic summary messages posted to Usenet attempted to reduce the continual reposting of the same basic questions and associated wrong answers. On Usenet, posting questions which are covered in a group's FAQ came to be considered poor as it showed that the poster has not done the expected background reading before asking others to provide answers. Some groups may have multiple FAQ on related topics, or even two or more competing FAQs explaining a topic from different points of view.
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