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Question: Are LISTSERVs and mailing lists the same?

Question: Are LISTSERVs and mailing lists the same? Stephen Bunker <[email protected]>writes, "I’ve seen the terms ‘listserv’ and ‘mailing list’ used synonymously. Do both terms mean the same thing?"

Answer: Definitely not. A mailing list is the generic name for a discussion group that takes place in email. Although you can run a small mailing list in an email client like Eudora, most mailing lists are run using special mailing list software, including programs like LISTSERV, Majordomo, Lyris, ListSTAR, and LetterRip. LISTSERV, then, is the name of one of the oldest and best-known mailing list programs. LISTSERV was written by Eric Thomas back in 1986 and is currently developed and marketed by L-Soft, a company Eric helped form in 1993. L-Soft claims that LISTSERV is used to host a total of over 73,000 mailing lists (about three quarters of them are local lists; the other quarter are public lists) for almost 21 million subscribers. (Wired magazine’s February 1998 issue claims that there are over 250,000 Internet mailing lists.) So, although some people use "listserv" when they mean "mailing list," it’s not an accurate use of the word (and it probably irritates L-Soft, too). [ACE]


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