As with many events in the evolution of Usenet, NNTP's development began as a personal project for Phil Lapsley at Berkeley. Lapsley had been studying client/server architecture and programming internet applications, and he proposed a protocol that would allow users to read newsgroups from Berkeley's Usenet feed remotely via TCP/IP, similar to SMTP for email. A few months into development, a colleague of Lapsley at U.C. San Diego informed him that Brian Kantor was conducting similar research. The two consolidated their research and began co-developing NNTP.
Although NNTP is thought of as the transport mechanism for Usenet today, it was first developed to allow news reader applications to display content from a UUCP host. Erik Fair, another colleague at Berkeley convinced Lapsley and Kantor to develop complete reading and transport capabilities for NNTP. The specification for NNTP was completed in March of 1986.
UUCP and NNTP shared a fairly even amount of Usenet traffic until the introduction of InterNetNews (INN) in 1991.