An electronic mailing list or email list is a special use of email that allows for widespread distribution of information to many Internet users. It is similar to a traditional mailing list – a list of names and addresses – as might be kept by an organization for sending publications to its members or customers, but typically refers to four things:
Electronic mailing lists usually are fully or partially automated through the use of special mailing list software and a reflector address set up on a server capable of receiving email. Incoming messages sent to the reflector address are processed by the software, and, depending on their content, are acted upon internally (in the case of messages containing commands directed at the software itself) or are distributed to all email addresses subscribed to the mailing list.
A web-based interface is often available to allow people to subscribe, unsubscribe, and change their preferences. However, mailing list servers existed long before the World Wide Web,so most also accept commands over email to a special email address. This allows subscribers (or those who want to be subscribers) to perform such tasks as subscribing and unsubscribing, temporarily halting the sending of messages to them, or changing available preferences - all via email. The common format for sending these commands is to send an email that contains simply the command followed by the name of the electronic mailing list the command pertains to. Examples: subscribe anylist or subscribe anylist John Doe.
Electronic mailing list servers may be set to forward messages to subscribers of a particular mailing list either individually as they are received by the list server, or in digest form in which all messages received on a particular day by the list server are combined into one email that is sent once per day to subscribers. Some mailing lists allow individual subscribers to decide how they prefer to receive messages from the list server (individual or digest).
Mailing lists have first been scholarly mailing lists.The genealogy of mailing lists as a communication tool between scientists can be traced back to the times of the fledgling Arpanet. The aim of the computer scientists involved in this project was to develop protocols for the communication between computers. In so doing, they have also built the first tools of human computer-mediated communication. Broadly speaking, the scholarly mailing lists can even be seen as the modern version of the salons of the Enlightenment ages, designed by scholars for scholars.
The “threaded conversation” structure (where the header of a first post defines the topic of a series of answers thus constituting a thread) is a typical and ubiquitous structure of discourse within lists and fora of the Internet. It is pivotal to the structure and topicality of debates within mailing lists as an arena, or public sphere in Habermas wording. The flame wars (as the liveliest episodes) give valuable and unique information to historians to comprehend what is at stake in the communities gathered around lists.
Anthropologists, sociologists and historians have used mailing lists as fieldwork.Topics include TV series fandom, online culture, or scientific practices among many other academic studies. From the historian's point of view, the issue of the preservation of mailing lists heritage (and Internet fora heritage in general) is essential. Not only the text of the corpus of messages has yet to be perennially archived, but also their related metadata, timestamps, headers that define topics, etc. Mailing lists archives are a unique opportunity for historians to explore interactions, debates, even tensions that reveal a lot about communities.
One type of electronic mailing list is an announcement list, which is used primarily as a one-way conduit of information and may only be "posted to" by selected people. This may also be referred to by the term newsletter. Newsletter and promotional emailing lists are employed in various sectors as parts of direct marketing campaigns.
Another type of electronic mailing list is a discussion list, in which any subscriber may post. On a discussion list, a subscriber uses the mailing list to send messages to all the other subscribers, who may answer in similar fashion. Thus, actual discussion and information exchanges can happen. Mailing lists of this type are usually topic-oriented (for example, politics, scientific discussion, health problems, joke contests), and the topic may range from extremely narrow to "whatever you think could interest us". In this they are similar to Usenet newsgroups, another form of discussion group that may have an aversion to off-topic messages.
On both discussion lists and newsletter lists precautions are taken to avoid spamming.
Discussion lists often require every message to be approved by a moderator before being sent to the rest of the subscribers (moderated lists), although higher-traffic lists typically only moderate messages from new subscribers. Companies sending out promotional newsletters have the option of working with whitelist mail distributors, which agree to standards and high fines from ISPs should any of the opt-in subscribers complain. In exchange for their compliance and agreement to prohibitive fines, the emails sent by whitelisted companies are not blocked by spam filters, which often can reroute these legitimate, non-spam emails.
Some mailing lists are open to anyone who wants to join them, while others require an approval from the list owner before one may join. Joining a mailing list is called "subscribing" and leaving a list is called "unsubscribing".
A mailing list archive is a collection of past messages from one or more electronic mailing lists. Such archives often include searching and indexing functionality. Many archives are directly associated with the mailing list, but some organizations, such as Gmane, collect archives from multiple mailing lists hosted at different organizations; thus, one message sent to one popular mailing list may end up in many different archives. Gmane had over 9,000 mailing list archives as of 16 January 2007. Some popular free software programs for collecting mailing list archives are Hypermail, MHonArc, and FUDforum.
Electronic mail is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using electronic devices. Email entered limited use in the 1960s, but users could only send to users of the same computer, and some early email systems required the author and the recipient to both be online simultaneously, similar to instant messaging. Ray Tomlinson is credited as the inventor of email; in 1971, he developed the first system able to send mail between users on different hosts across the ARPANET, using the @ sign to link the user name with a destination server. By the mid-1970s, this was the form recognized as email.
A Domain Name System-based Blackhole List, Domain Name System Blacklist (DNSBL) or Real-time Blackhole List (RBL) is a service whereby with a simple DNS query mail servers can check whether a sending IP address is on a blacklist of IP addresses reputed to send email spam. Most mail server software can be configured to check one or more of such lists - typically rejecting or flagging messages if it is from a listed site.
A mailing list is a collection of names and addresses used by an individual or an organization to send material to multiple recipients. The term is often extended to include the people subscribed to such a list, so the group of subscribers is referred to as "the mailing list", or simply "the list".
Various anti-spam techniques are used to prevent email spam.
The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003, signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003, established the United States' first national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce its provisions.
Email spam, also referred to as junk email, is unsolicited messages sent in bulk by email (spamming).
The term Listserv has been used to refer to electronic mailing list software applications in general, but is more properly applied to a few early instances of such software, which allows a sender to send one email to the list, which then transparently sends it on to the addresses of the subscribers to the list.
An autoresponder is a computer program that automatically answers e-mail sent to it. They can be very simple or quite complex.
Email marketing is the act of sending a commercial message, typically to a group of people, using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It involves using email to send advertisements, request business, or solicit sales or donations. Email marketing strategies commonly seek to achieve one or more of three primary objectives, to build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. The term usually refers to sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing a merchant's relationship with current or previous customers, encouraging customer loyalty and repeat business, acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately, and sharing third-party ads.
Email harvesting or scraping is the process of obtaining lists of email addresses using various methods. Typically these are then used for bulk email or spam.
Opt-in email is a term used when someone is not initially added to an emailing list and is instead given the option to join the emailing list. Typically, this is some sort of mailing list, newsletter, or advertising. Opt-out emails do not ask for permission to send emails, these emails are typically criticized as unsolicited bulk emails, better known as spam.
A challenge–response system is a type of spam filter that automatically sends a reply with a challenge to the (alleged) sender of an incoming e-mail. It was originally designed in 1997 by Stan Weatherby, and was called Email Verification. In this reply, the purported sender is asked to perform some action to assure delivery of the original message, which would otherwise not be delivered. The action to perform typically takes relatively little effort to do once, but great effort to perform in large numbers. This effectively filters out spammers. Challenge–response systems only need to send challenges to unknown senders. Senders that have previously performed the challenging action, or who have previously been sent e-mail(s) to, would be automatically whitelisted.
In Internet usage, an email bomb is a form of net abuse consisting of sending large volumes of email to an address in an attempt to overflow the mailbox, overwhelm the server where the email address is hosted in a denial-of-service attack or as a smoke screen to distract the attention from important email messages indicating a security breach.
An email alias is simply a forwarding email address. The term alias expansion is sometimes used to indicate a specific mode of email forwarding, thereby implying a more generic meaning of the term email alias as an address that is forwarded in a simplistic fashion.
Backscatter is incorrectly automated bounce messages sent by mail servers, typically as a side effect of incoming spam.
A feedback loop (FBL), sometimes called a complaint feedback loop, is an inter-organizational form of feedback by which a mailbox provider (MP) forwards the complaints originating from their users to the sender's organizations. MPs can receive users' complaints by placing report spam buttons on their webmail pages, or in their email client, or via help desks. The message sender's organization, often an email service provider, has to come to an agreement with each MP from which they want to collect users' complaints.
CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc. was a ruling by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 1997 that set an early precedent for granting online service providers the right to prevent commercial enterprises from sending unsolicited email advertising - also known as spam - to its subscribers. It was one of the first cases to apply United States tort law to restrict spamming on computer networks. The court held that Cyber Promotions' intentional use of CompuServe's proprietary servers to send unsolicited email was an actionable trespass to chattels and granted a preliminary injunction preventing the spammer from sending unsolicited advertisements to any email address maintained by CompuServe.
phpList is an open source software for managing mailing lists. It is designed for the dissemination of information, such as newsletters, news, advertising to list of subscribers. It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database to store the information. phpList is free and open-source software subject to the terms of the Affero General Public License (AGPL).
People tend to be much less bothered by spam slipping through filters into their mail box, than having desired e-mail ("ham") blocked. Trying to balance false negatives vs false positives is critical for a successful anti-spam system. As servers are not able to block all spam there are some tools for individual users to help control over this balance.
OG Mailinglist is a module that turns Drupal into a listserv, allowing it to run multiple electronic mailing lists. OG Mailinglist is coded primarily in PHP and requires the Organic Groups modules as well as Phpmailer to run. It is currently maintained by Kyle Mathews and Mattias Põldaru. OG Mailinglist is free software, subject to the requirement of the GNU General Public License. It works with Unix style mail servers such as Postfix, Exim and qmail. It also can interface with Mailgun from Rackspace.