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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  TCP/IP Key Applications and Application Protocols
           9  TCP/IP File and Message Transfer Applications and Protocols (FTP, TFTP, Electronic Mail, USENET, HTTP/WWW, Gopher)
                9  TCP/IP Electronic Mail System: Concepts and Protocols (RFC 822, MIME, SMTP, POP3, IMAP)
                     9  TCP/IP Electronic Mail Addresses and Addressing

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TCP/IP Historical and Special Electronic Mail Addressing
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Pages in Current Topic/Section
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TCP/IP Electronic Mail Message Formats and Message Processing: RFC 822 and MIME
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TCP/IP Electronic Mail Aliases / Address Books, Multiple Recipient Addressing and Electronic Mailing Lists
(Page 2 of 2)

Mailing Lists

In larger groups, communication by simply writing out the addresses of each recipient becomes cumbersome. Instead, a mailing list is used. The list is created by an individual termed the list owner and contains the electronic mail addresses of all the members of the group. Then, a special list address is created. This address looks and functions just like a regular e-mail address. However, when anyone sends mail to this special address, it is not simply deposited into a mailbox. It is instead intercepted by special software that processes the message and sends it out automatically to all recipients on the list. Any recipient can reply back to the list address and all members will receive the reply.

There are many thousands of mailing lists on the Internet, covering every subject imaginable. Each list differs in a number of regards, including the following:

  • Implementation: Usually some sort of special software is used to allow the list owner to manage it, add and remove users and set parameters that control how the list operates. These programs are commonly called robots or listservs (list servers). One of the more common ones is named Majordomo. There are also now mailing lists that are actually implemented and managed using the World Wide Web. (The line between Internet applications continues to get more and more blurry…)

  • Subscription Rules and Technique: Some mailing lists are open to anyone who wishes to join, while others are “by invitation only”. Most allow a new subscriber to join automatically using software, others require the list owner to add new members.

  • Management Method and Style: The list owner decides what is acceptable for discussion on the list. Some lists are moderated, meaning that all submissions to the list must be approved by the list owner before they are sent to list members. Some lists allow mail to the list from non-members, some do not.

  • “Culture”: Like all groups, groups of people on mailing lists have their own “culture”, interesting “personalities” and so forth. New members of a list are often encouraged to read the list and not send to it for a while until they become accustomed to it and how it works. This is similar to the acclimation process for Usenet “newbies”.

  • Special Features: Some lists support special features, such as the ability to subscribe in digest mode (where messages are collected into large digests to cut down on the number of individual messages sent) or to access messages on the Web.

Key Concept: One of the many benefits of electronic mail is that it is easy to send a message to many people at once, simply by specifying several recipient addresses. This permits easy and simple group communication, because each recipient can then do a group reply to send a response to each of the people who were sent the original message. Electronic mailing lists provide a more formalized way for groups to exchange ideas and information; there are many thousands of such lists in existence on the Internet.

There are many other ways for groups to share information today, such as World Wide Web bulletin boards, Usenet newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat and so forth. Some of these have a lot of features that make mailing lists seem “unsophisticated” by comparison. Despite this, electronic mailing lists are still very popular, largely because e-mail is the most universal Internet communication method, and one of the easiest to use.


Previous Topic/Section
TCP/IP Historical and Special Electronic Mail Addressing
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TCP/IP Electronic Mail Message Formats and Message Processing: RFC 822 and MIME
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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