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Mailing List Programs
Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.
First, the industry now commonly calls mailing list programs "listservers," but this is a name owned by L-Soft International, Inc., which makes the LISTSERV mailing list program, originally created by Eric Thomas in 1986. This section will discuss LISTSERV and Majordomo, a similar mailing list program.
A mailing list program is a program that uses Internet protocols to automate e-mail message distribution to members of a mailing list. Members subscribe to a mailing list, then receive a copy of all e-mail messages sent to the list. Any member can create a new message or respond to a message that was sent by another user. New messages and response messages are automatically forwarded to members of the list. A mailing list is usually set up to disseminate information about a particular topic, such as computers, politics, finance, stocks, or many other topics.
Mailing lists are excellent tools for organizations to use for in-house discussions or to provide open discussions with customers or clients. For example, Microsoft uses mailing lists when beta testing its products. Beta testers receive prerelease copies of a product and participate in mailing list discussions about that product. Many problems and technical details are often hammered out in heated mailing list discussions before the product is released.
A mailing list implements a mail list exploder. When a message is sent to the mailing list, it is exploded, meaning that duplicates of the message are sent to everyone on the list. Recipients usually receive a message in a few minutes on the Internet. However, some recipients may choose to have messages sent in digest form, which means messages are bundled in a package and sent once per week (or some other interval).
Generally, subscriptions to a list are open to all. To subscribe, a user sends a request to the mailing list server in an e-mail message. The server then adds the user to the list and returns a set of instructions for using the list. The user can send another message to unsubscribe from the list at any time. However, a list administrator or owner can screen subscribers, drop subscribers that are being rude, or perform other management functions.
As users exchange messages, they create message threads that can be archived and reviewed at any point. One message thread may spawn another message thread. Mailing list programs create logs of messages that are archived and can be reviewed at any time. Users can obtain a log file for a particular time period or use database functions to search for messages related to a specific topic or sent by a person of interest.
The two most popular mailing list programs are outlined here:
Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.