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ARCHIVED: What is a LISTSERV mailing list?

Note: IU retired its LISTSERV system in spring 2012, replacing it with IU List, a new mailing list service. See What is IU List, and how do I use it?

A LISTSERV mailing list is based on a computer program called LISTSERV that allows people to create, manage, and control electronic mailing lists. Each list has a topic of interest, just as a company might have a postal mailing list to distribute a catalog. To avoid requiring everyone within a mailing group to maintain a separate alias or nickname for the group, the LISTSERV product maintains a single list of subscribers that everyone can use.

Sometimes mailing lists are public; that is, anyone with an email account anywhere in the world can subscribe. Sometimes lists are private or confidential. In this case, the list's owner or sponsor can subscribe people, and LISTSERV won't let anyone else know about the list.

Mailing lists can make sending mail to groups of people much easier, especially if the membership of the group is constantly changing. Group members need only to maintain their own addresses and subscription status.

You may often hear people refer to any mailing list as a "listserv". This is not accurate; only a list maintained with the LISTSERV program is a LISTSERV mailing list. LISTSERV is a registered trademark of L-Soft international, Inc. Other products, such as ListProc and Majordomo, perform similar electronic mailing list functions, but you should use the term LISTSERV only in reference to actual LISTSERV mailing lists.

For guidelines on use of the term "LISTSERV", see Guidelines for Proper Usage of the LISTSERV® trademark.

For a collection of documents with general LISTSERV information, and information about owning and subscribing to LISTSERV lists at Indiana University, see ARCHIVED: LISTSERV, distribution lists, and mass mailing.

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Last modified on September 23, 2013.

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