The term listserv is used to refer to a specific mailing list application distributed by L-Soft Interational and trademarked as LISTSERV, as well as to mailing list applications in general.
A mailing list is an automated email-based discussion system. At the heart of every mailing list is a mailing list management application installed on an Internet-connected server. The mailing list management application handles the technical process of receiving messages from mailing list subscribers, forwarding those messages to all of the users subscribed to a specific mailing list, and managing user subscription profiles.
The term Listserv can be used to refer to two different things:
- As a generic term to refer to any mailing list management application.
- To refer specifically to LISTERV, a commercial mailing list management application developed and distributed by L-Soft International.
Also See: Mailing List
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the history of Listserv?
The name Listserv was first used in 1984 to refer to a mailing list application that operated over the BITNET network: BITNIC LISTSERV. In 1986, a completely different application was created and named Revised Listserv. Revised Listserv was the first automated mailing list application, and by 1987, even users of BITNIC LISTSERV had upgraded to Revised Listserv due to its automated mailing list management features.
Listserv was a free application from 1986 to 1993. In 1994, Eric Thomas, the original author and developer of Revised Listserv, created L-Soft to market and distribute Listserv as a commercial product. However, true to Listserv's origins as freeware, a free version of Listserv is still offered by L-Soft, although it can only be used to power a limited number of non-commercial mailing lists with a maximum of 500 subscribers per mailing list.
What are some alternatives to LISTSERV?
There are many alternatives to LISTSERV. If you're trying to settle on the right mailing list application for your mailing list you should consider these four options in addition to LISTSERVE:
- GNU Mailman: A free mailing list application for Linux systems, GNU Mailman is written in Python, and offers web-based interfaces for list management and subscriber profile self-management.
- Dada Mail: A free mailing list application written in Perl and designed for use with announcement lists, but discussion lists can also be managed with Dada Mail through a plug-in called Dada Bridge.
- Majordomo: While Majordomo hasn't been updated since the year 2000, this free application is still used on Unix and Unix-like systems. Since it's original development predates the birth of the web, Majordomo operates almost exclusively through email-based commands, although a web-based interface can be interegrated with a Majordomo installation.
- Sympa: A free-and-open-source mailing list management application, Sympa is one of the most user-friendly mailing list applications.
If you plan to create an announcement list rather than a discussion list you should also check out web-based services that will take care of the application management side of running a mailing list. A few popular web-based providers of announcement list style mailing lists include MailChimp, AWeber, and Constant Contact.