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  • Mailman

What is Mailman Hosting?

Mailman is a free software application designed to assist with electronic mail management, especially lists for things like newsletters and discussions. It is distributed under the GNU General Public License, and integrated with the Web for easier management and administration. Mailman is written in the Python programming language.

What It's For

Despite the rise of popular alternatives to email, electronic mailing lists still facilitate the wide distribution of information to specified recipients. For many industries, such as software development, mailing lists are an effective way for individuals to communicate, share ideas and collaborate.

Typically, these mailing lists include email addresses and the names of their owners (subscribing recipients), the publications sent to those addresses, and a reflector. The reflector receives composed messages, and forwards, or reflects, them to all of the addresses on the list.


Mailman is a full-featured mailing list solution, and the application supports more than two dozen languages. The languages can be configured on a per-site, per-list and per-user basis.

Users may create and remove lists through the Web, though automatic support depends on the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA). Users can subscribe and unsubscribe through the Web, and even temporarily disable their accounts or hide their address from other users. Mailman also offers "real name" support for its users.

Mailman provides several different delivery options, configurable on a per-list and per-user basis. The regular method delivers individual messages immediately. There are also two digest modes, either Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) or Plain, that deliver periodic emails containing the various messages since the last digest.

Emergency moderation is available to manage rapid posting among large groups. MIME-based content filtering, including the ability to strip MIME attachments, regular expression-based topic filtering and integrated spam filtering are included. Each mailing list may have its own, customized homepage.

The lists on Mailman each enjoy their own privacy features, among which are private membership rosters and archives, closed subscriptions, and sender-based posting rules. If a particular email address bounces sent messages, the application will detect it, and automatically unsubscribe the account. The lists allow multiple owners and moderators. Further, Mailman offers support for virtual domains and high-performance mail delivery.

Pricing and Availability

You should have no trouble finding a hosting provider for Mailman. It runs on Linux and other Unix-like Operating Systems (OS), and requires a mail server and support for Python. As you will be working with numerous email addresses, ensure your host offers the appropriate support for managing email accounts, access and security.

When evaluating a host, find out what restrictions or requirements they place on mailing lists. For example, some hosts require a dedicated server or Virtual Private Server (VPS) for mailing lists that exceed a specified amount of subscribers.

Because Mailman is open source, the software itself is free to use. Depending on your hosting company's requirements, however, you may have to pay additional fees for the necessary hardware or hosting package.


Despite its widespread use, Mailman is by no means the only mailing list software on the market.

phpList is an open source, PHP-based mailing list package. It offers many similar features as Mailman, and may be a good choice for admins whose website is already PHP-based.

Dada Mail is another alternative that emphasizes the ability to "run a verified mailing list that your subscribers can trust," thanks to a closed-loop opt-in system.

Pros and Cons:


  • Powerful features
  • Widespread support
  • Relatively simple
  • Free


  • None

Points to Remember

Mailman has established itself as one of the main mailing list applications on the market today. It boasts an array of powerful features and customization options, not the least of which is Web-based administration for nearly everything.

As free, open source software under active development, Mailman is a compelling option for any individual or organization looking to create and maintain an electronic mailing list.

Mailman Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Mailman?

    Mailman is an open-source, web-based email management application designed to provide webmasters with an easier way to help maintain newsletter lists and discussions. Unlike most common email marketing software in today's marketplace, Mailman is more commonly used for distribution lists that need discussion management features in addition to mail delivery. First created in 2007, Mailman is written in the Python programming language. Because it is an open source application, it is also commonly referred to as "GNU Mailman".

  • What are some good reasons to use Mailman?

    Mailman offers web-based administration for nearly all of its tasks. From the web admin, administrators can configure lists, users, delivery mode, and manage lists, discussions, users, and subscribe/unsubscribe for users. You can also create a unique home page for each mailing list. Major features in the latest release include multi-language support, "real name" support, improved member management and support for personalized deliveries.

  • Are there any reasons not to use Mailman?

    The biggest reason not to use Mailman - or any other mailing list software - is due to the evolution of web technology. With social networking and blogging platforms so commonplace, managing a mailing list seems like an obsolete way to communicate with subscribers.

  • What are the alternatives to Mailman?

    For people looking for a self-hosted mailing list software, phpList is a good solution for sites built in PHP and offers features that are very similar to Mailman. If you want a closed-loop opt-in system for your mailing list, Dada Mail could be another alternative, as well. However, most solutions that work best in today's email marketplace are not self-hosted, like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

  • What are the requirements for Mailman web hosting?

    In order to run a Mailman installation for mailing list management, you are going to need a Linux-based server solution with a mail server and Python. These basic server requirements should be able to be met by any hosting provider, but be sure to check with your provider before making any agreements.

  • Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?

    Because of potential issues with blacklisting and email deliverability, many hosting providers will require customers that want to operate a mailing list to do so on a virtual server or dedicated hosting solution. This keeps the remainder of their customers unaffected by any issues you may face with your campaign. This is also often required if the mailing list is comprised of thousands of people.

  • Do I need to be concerned about installation?

    If you have a standard Apache server that runs Linux and is capable of running Python, then installing Mailman should not be that terrible of a task. Windows as a server is not an option, and you must have a mail server that can send a message and a server that supports CGI/1.1 API. As far as mail servers go, try something like Postfix, Exim, Sendmail, and Gmail - all of these should work just fine. Also, make sure you have the Python interpreter installed somewhere on your system. This is a must, and at minimum Python 2.4.4 or higher is recommended.

  • Is there any reason not to use a one-click installation wizard?

    In the event that you can find a one-click installation option for GNU Mailman, and you already know that you have proper server configurations - then doing a 1-click install isn't a bad idea. Unfortunately, the age of the Mailman software and the server configurations required to run Mailman make 1-click installation a little less practical. You should probably consult your hosting provider before you install Mailman to determine if 1-click installation is a viable option.

  • What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?

    Self-hosted web applications do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your app. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created Mailman. In order to use a self-hosted email management system for your mailing list like Mailman, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your running your application.

  • Can I host Mailman on a shared hosting plan?

    Shared hosting is probably not the best recommendation for Mailman. Its requirements for a mail server and the dependence the platform has on running Python make it a little more unique than most standard shared hosting plans are prepared to handle. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but if you are planning on running Mailman to manage your mailing list, you should probably review pricing plans and options for either a Linux virtual private server or a Linux dedicated server.

  • Do I have to know how to program to use Mailman?

    As Mailman has evolved, there has been a lot of progress made on its usability for non-programmers. With the web-based admin area features, you can probably get by with less programming knowledge today than you could in the early development stages. However, if you really want to customize the experience for your subscribers with unique homepages for their mailing lists and personalized email delivery, some programming knowledge may be required. If you need assistance with programming for Mailman, there is a list of preferred consultants on the Mailman wiki at

  • Do I need managed hosting in order to use Mailman as my mailing list application?

    The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?" The more complex your application becomes, the greater your need will be for professionally managed application hosting. Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however (which is often what is required to use Mailman), managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. This is the case with any self-hosted applications for mailing lists and email - not just an open source platform like Mailman installed.

  • What am I not asking about? What is some important advice for Mailman?

    Because Mailman is an open-source platform that is developed by volunteers and financially supported by donations, it is not the most advanced mailing list solution. For example, the next generation of Mailman - version 3.0 - has already been under development for over 5 years! If you are looking for a mailing list platform that is a hands off platform for programming or contains more features than what you read above, you may want to review newer platforms.

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