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From Jakob Nielsen, on online communities and how much people contribute vs. lurk. "User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule: 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don't contribute). 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time. 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don't have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they're commenting on occurs." [1]

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History of the Name LISTSERV®

LISTSERV was the first email list management software.

The story of LISTSERV began in Paris, France 1986, when a young engineering student, Eric Thomas, wrote the first version of LISTSERV. LISTSERV was the first email list management software product of its kind. Before its invention, all email lists had to be administered manually. Mail templates were added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to create automatic responses to specific commands and to customize the look and feel of administrative messages.


The story of LISTSERV began in Paris, France, when a young engineering student, Eric Thomas, wrote the first version of LISTSERV. LISTSERV was the first email list management software product of its kind. Before its invention, all email lists had to be administered manually.

Mail templates were added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to create automatic responses to specific commands and to customize the look and feel of administrative messages.


With the addition of database functions, LISTSERV made it possible for users to search list archives for messages about certain topics. This effectively turned LISTSERV into a large electronic encyclopedia.


Eric Thomas moved to CERN in Switzerland, where the World Wide Web was invented. He continued to develop LISTSERV.

The automatically maintained list of lists further improved the searching possibilities.

The 1,000th public LISTSERV list was created.


Eric Thomas was hired by SUNET (the Swedish University Network) to help build a computer network with the ambition of making Sweden the leading IT nation in Europe. Because of this, LISTSERV development continued in Stockholm, Sweden.

Passive probes were added to LISTSERV.


The international BITNET network reached its peak, connecting some 1,400 organizations in 49 countries for the electronic, non-commercial exchange of information in support of research and education. Thanks largely to the volunteer efforts of Eric Thomas, BITNET provided thousands of electronic mailing lists based on LISTSERV.

Eric Thomas did not want his software to disappear with the mainframes. Therefore, he started looking for ways to port LISTSERV to other environments, such as VMS and UNIX.


Eric Thomas made changes to the existing LISTSERV code to make it easier to port, should the need arise. LISTSERV was a large application and Eric estimated that it would take 35 to 50 of the mythical "man months" to complete the work, so he started looking for sponsors and grants to fund the development.


The grant search proved unsuccessful. Going commercial appeared to be the only way to save LISTSERV. The first legal incarnation of L-Soft, the temporary L-Soft, was born in a lawyer's drawer. The company closed its first big sale in July. The business plan was to sell maintenance and new versions of the mainframe product, and then use the proceeds to hire programmers to port the code to VMS and UNIX.

LISTSERV was the first software to introduce double opt-in. This prevented people from getting subscribed to a LISTSERV list without wanting it.


With only $3,000, a laptop and a plane ticket to New York City, Eric Thomas officially founded L-Soft in order to further develop LISTSERV.

L-Soft is Founded

In March, L-Soft released its first new product, LISTSERV-TCP/IP for VM. This new product introduced a lot of changes, most notably in the DISTRIBUTE algorithm. These changes were a pre-requisite to the development of the VMS and UNIX versions.

In May, the first versions of LISTSERV for VMS and UNIX were released.


In May, the Windows NT version, along with new versions of the VM, VMS and UNIX products, were released.

LISTSERV for Windows 95 was launched the same day as Windows 95.

LISTSERV introduced its first spam filter. This was not only a first for LISTSERV, but a first for the entire industry.

LISTSERV Introduced First Spam Filter


LISTSERV celebrated its 10th anniversary.

LISTSERV was registered as a trademark.

A LISTSERV list broke the half-million subscriber mark - a new Internet record for an email list.
LISTSERV Celebrates 10th Anniversary

CataList, the official catalog of LISTSERV lists, was launched. CataList enabled users to browse public LISTSERV lists, search for mailing lists of interest and get information about LISTSERV host sites through the Internet.

LISTSERV added the Web Interface, making the software more user-friendly by simplifying email list management and allowing users to administer and control their lists from anywhere on the Internet.

Web templates were added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to customize the look and feel of their Web Interface pages.


L-Soft released LISTSERV Lite and LISTSERV Lite Free Edition, which was designed for non-profit and hobby use only.

LISTSERV powered Carl Bildt's Newsletter. Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, started the Internet revolution in politics in Europe by being the first Prime Minister in Europe who gave out his email address to the public and published an electronic newsletter.


L-Soft launched NetPals, a free LISTSERV mailing list service for the international school community.

In preparation for its international expansion, L-Soft hired six European AIESEC trainees, two of which became VPs.


L-Soft released a new version of LISTSERV with database connectivity and mail-merge capabilities, allowing customers to send personalized email messages to targeted recipient lists.

Eric Thomas founded L-Soft Sweden, the first office in Europe, to better serve the European customers.


LISTSERV email list subscriptions surpassed 100 million worldwide.


F-Secure Anti-Virus was integrated into LISTSERV. Millions of list subscribers were now protected from viruses. LISTSERV became the first mailing list manager in the industry to have built-in AV capabilities.


LISTSERV got a redesigned Web interface. It included online Task Wizards, used to guide list owners through each aspect of email list management.

LISTSERV Maestro was launched. This new product enabled the creation, management, delivery, tracking and reporting of customized opt-in email marketing campaigns.

LISTSERV at Work, L-Soft's quarterly newsletter, was launched.


Virus protection was introduced for all LISTSERV platforms with the launch of LISTSERV Anti-Virus Station.


L-Soft celebrated its 10th anniversary.

New LISTSERV spam control features were introduced. LISTSERV could now be connected to most external spam filters, including SpamAssassin.

Customization and translation of system and confirmation messages were added to further improve internationalization.

The LISTSERV Choice Awards were launched to globally recognize outstanding email lists.
L-Soft Celebrated 10th Anniversary
LISTSERV Choice Awards Were Launched


LISTSERV for Mac OS X was released.

LISTSERV support for embedded mail-merge was added.


New Deliverability Assessment interface, a Web-based center dedicated to maximizing deliverability of legitimate email messages, was added to LISTSERV. The assessment encompasses all three major certification standards, including DomainKeys, Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Sender ID, as well as additional DNS tests.

LISTSERV, the de facto standard for email list management software, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
LISTSERV Celebrates 20th Anniversary

LISTSERV is a registered trademark licensed to L-Soft international, Inc.
All other trademarks, both marked and not marked, are the property of their respective owners.