LISTSERV Lite -- A scaled-down version of the most popular list server on the net

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted June 25, 2002

The creators of LISTSERV proudly proclaim on their Web site that e-mail generated from their software constitutes over half of the electronic mailing list messages routed through the Internet at any given time. This may not exactly be a boasting point for those who feel overwhelmed by e-mail and the idea of setting up mailing lists, but in the world of mailing-list management such a market share is a major selling point for anyone needing to reach large numbers of users via electronic mail.

LISTSERV, in all its incarnations (including the flagship LISTSERV Classic), is the most popular mailing-list management software on the Internet today. (Note that we refer to LISTSERV Lite as "mailing-list management" software, which is not the same as spam-generation software, but it should be noted that, unlike the Classic release, LISTSERV Lite does not feature an integrated Spam filter.)

Once installed, LISTSERV Lite is actually fairly simple: it sends out electronic mail to e-mail addresses on a mailing list. The mailing list can be altered by the general public or by a specific set of users who have the power to add and delete names. Public users are able to run only a limited set of commands on a LISTSERV server by sending e-mail to the server. One of the bad things about LISTSERV is that these commands tend to the obscure, and users usually need to jump through a few hoops in order to implement them. It probably won't take long for your users to realize that LISTSERV Lite is software implemented to make the lives of sysadmins easier, not the lives of users.

The purpose behind giving users this power is self-evident -- administrators don't have the time to manually add and delete records for large (potentially millions and millions of users) mailing lists, so by letting users do some of the work, huge mailing lists can be managed without a huge drain on funds. And, given the widespread use of LISTSERV, this approach definitely seems to work.

Installing LISTSERV Lite is relatively simple (we installed the free version on both Windows NT and Linux servers). On the Unix side, you can download a precompiled binary for your particular UNIX variant and install that directory. (Or, if you're familiar with UNIX system administration, you can run the make command to compile the included source code after editing makefiles to specify directory locations and data-file locations.)

With both the Windows NT version and the Windows 95/98 releases, all you need to do in order to get up and running with the server is run an installation program and then specify a few directory locations and data-file locations. Configuring the server requires setting up a LISTSERV administrator name, creating some file and directory permissions, and adding the LISTSERV address that will pass along some LISTSERV usernames to subscriber's e-mail addresses. Typically, this will be something like

While these steps may be somewhat daunting for those unfamiliar with UNIX system administration, the installation notes are clear and easy to follow. Similarly, while LISTSERV Lite installation on Windows NT follows some UNIX conventions, anyone with NT and Internet experience will be able to set up their own LISTSERV server with a minimum of effort.

There are two editions of LISTSERV Lite currently available. The actual Lite version, priced between $450 and $2000, is targeted at smaller sites needing 5-20 mailing lists of up to a couple thousand subscribers in size. The second release, LISTSERV Free Edition, is a freeware version that is limited to a maximum of 10 mailing lists with up to 500 subscribers each. The Free Edition costs absolutely nothing as long as the licensee does not derive a profit, directly or indirectly, from using the software.

LISTSERV Lite isn't perfect -- users could have a much easier time of managing their participation in mailing lists -- but on the whole LISTSERV Lite is an attractive option for anyone needing mailing-list management capabilities, especially if your needs can be filled by the attractively priced Free Edition.

Pros: Inexpensive mailing-list management software, Powerful freeware version, Available for many UNIX variants and Windows platforms, Low maintenance required after installation

Cons: Configuration performed through text-based configuration files, The server can also be difficult for end users with little or no LISTSERV experience, Obscure syntax,No Spam filter, No technical support available

Version Reviewed: 1.8c
Date of Review: 7/7/98
Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard

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