A venerable UNIX/Perl-based mailing-list manager
June 5, 2002
One of the first tools ever created for managing mailing lists on the Internet, Majordomo is a UNIX/Perl-based mailing-list manager that, while still quite functional for those working in a UNIX environment, is perhaps a little outdated when compared to both standalone mailing-list managers and e-mail servers with integrated mailing-list capabilities. Majordomo is distributed as freeware source code and is compiled on UNIX systems, subsequently working in conjunction with Perl (requiring 4.036 or Perl 5.002 or greater). The Majordomo FAQ indicates some problems with some of the major UNIX variants (most notably DEC OSF/1 and AIX) stemming from Perl problems.
Still, we experienced few problems configuring Majordomo on a vanilla Linux Web server running the most recent version of Perl, even though the Majordomo FAQ warns that configuring Majordomo might be a challenging task because of the relative complexity in setting up the proper permissions. The Majordomo home page even contains the following ominous caveat: "In short, configuring Majordomo to do some of the advanced features can be confusing." (And, indeed, someone without working knowledge of UNIX permissions might have an extremely difficult time configuring Majordomo.)
Though it might be theoretically possible to implement Majordomo on a Windows NT system -- after all, Majordomo is nothing more than Perl code and a small C program -- there's no known port of Majordomo to the 32-bit Windows environment. And because various Majordomo features are closely tied to the UNIX operating system (particularly relating to permissions and working with mail-transfer agents), attempting to use Majordomo on a Windows NT server would probably be more trouble than it's worth.
Majordomo doesn't actually do any mailing on its own; instead, it works in conjunction with a mail-transfer agent (such as sendmail, qmail, or smail), managing a list of e-mail addresses and sending them to the MTA for the actual mailing. (Another reason why Majordomo isn't a major force in the Windows NT world -- typically Windows NT mail servers don't work in the same manner as UNIX mail-transfer agents.)
Once set up, Majordomo receives commands from both users and administers via e-mail relating to the subscribing and unsubscribing to mailing lists. In terms of impacting system performance, Majordomo is a mixed bag: while the Perl code appears to be rather trim, Perl isn't the speediest of environments, and conceivably a large mailing list could provide enough churn to impact a system.
If you need to maintain mailing lists on a UNIX system and have a good working knowledge of the UNIX operating system, you should consider Majordomo for your system. However, if you need advanced capabilities or need to support mailing lists on non-UNIX platforms, you'll want to focus your attention on standalone mailing-list managers or e-mail servers with integrated mailing-list capabilities instead.
Pros: 7 Maintenance-free once installed, 7 Runs with a relatively low system overhead, 7 Freely distributed as source code, 7 One of the oldest and most popular list servers ever created
Cons: 7 No actual technical support other than Majordomo mailing lists, 7 No Windows NT/Macintosh releases, 7 Difficult to configure for those unfamiliar with Unix