What is an Internet mailing list?

2003-06-24 by

An Internet Mailing List is a list made up of subscribers using emails as the medium of communication. Joining a ‘mailing list' is a way of saying "Keep me informed"; a list of people have requested to be informed of a specific subject matter and all relevant issues, these issues submitted by other list members.

E-mail is, and has always been, the greatest application of the Internet era. Did you know that more e-mails are sent daily than telephone calls are made?

When one thinks of e-mail it is usually regarded as a person-to-person communication activity. Mailing lists, though, encourage a greater and more varied amount of e-mail activity, anything from two-way communication to full interactive discussions open to the public. Lists can be restricted to within private circles; and, one-way lists can deliver announcements, newsletters, and advertising.

Advertising mailing lists comprise a significant bulk of electronic traffic. Information on this type of list can be found here: http://serverwatch.internet.com/listservers.html

Generically speaking mailing lists can be classified in two ways: a ‘one-way', and a ‘two-way' mailing list. A one-way mailing list either accepts or sends information, the user only interacting with the list server; and a two-way list creates interaction.

One-way mailing lists are often used to send newsletters, announcements, and advertising. One-way incoming mailing lists are less common but still useful. These are often used to allow users to send commands to a server. For example, a fax-back service might accept incoming e-mail requests for a document, and it may fax (or e-mail) the requested document back to the individual. E-mail Spam is another example of a one-way outgoing mailing list.

A two-way mailing list lets users interact with other subscribers to that mailing list. Two-way mailing lists are generally limited to subscribers, in the sense that a user sends a message to a specified address to sign up for that particular list. List subscriptions may be open to the public, meaning that anyone can subscribe, or they may be private and restricted to known parties. For example to be used for educational discussion lists for specific courses.

In the same way that a single ‘Web server' (a computer with web space allocated to storage) can host multiple unrelated Web sites, a ‘list server' (another computer) often hosts multiple mailing lists.

A typical list server has 3 levels of management: the server administrator, the list server administrator, and the list owner. The server administrator has top-level access to the configuration of the list server and probably to the machine on which it runs. He or she maintains the list server software. The List Server Administrator has access to the administrative functions of the list server software to create, adjust or delete mailing lists and to assign list owners. The list owner manages a particular mailing list. Privileges may include handling subscription problems and templates.

Through the utilization of mailing lists there is an endless scope of information available on almost any topic, this application worth is obvious, research is important to most people, whether it is for business, personal or even the school project. A typical place to start is: http://www.lsoft.com/lists/listref.html

Mailing lists can also be used as quick and effective information gathering devices. ‘Information Catalogues' are available on the search engines in which to find the appropriate mailing list.

There are also services to aid you in creating your OWN mailing list; the most popular web hosting companies now commonly offer these services. More frequently Web Hosting companies, such as M6.net, found at http://www.m6.net offer very powerful and maintenance-free mailing lists with their hosting services, and usually, as in M6.net's case, for no extra cost to the account holder.

It is advisable to check out whether a web host can offer this service first before you consider a home for your project's website. After all, the mailing list is probably the best promotion tool on the Internet today, and the email is its life-blood.

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