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.
Here is a list of features available within the Mailman framework:
List Creation / Removal
Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) Delivery
Emergency Moderation Features
List Creation and Removal
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.
MIME and Plain Delivery Options
Mailman provides several different delivery options, configurable on a per-list and per-user basis in your configuration file. 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.
Barry Warsaw, a project manager with Mailman, discusses the Mailman 3 release.
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.
What Do I Need to Know About Mailman Hosting?
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.
Many web hosts offer the popular user-friendly control panel cPanel, for managing your tasks. This helpful cPanel video will give you an idea of what’s involved with using Mailman and what you can do with it.
Restrictions and Requirements
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.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to Mailman?
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.
Differences between Mailman and Similar Scripts
A GNU mailing list system which is primarily designed to facilitate two-way discussion / replies following mail distribution.
An opensource mailing list system. However, it can only be used for one-way distribution of mailing lists rather than as a reply platform.
Dada Mail is a Perl script that facilitates the distribution of mailing lists. However, it is only available for free if your mailing list has fewer than 1000 subscribers. Any more and you will have to pay for a ‘pro’ license.
Important Points about Mailman
Mailman has established itself as one of the most trusted 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.
How to Install Mailman on a Server
Once you’ve found your hosting provider, it shouldn’t take long to get your Mailman mailing list up and running.
Web Interface Installation
Most hosts will provide you with a web interface, likely cPanel.
Each host can customize the cPanel that each customer sees, but most will have an option to install Mailman directly, or install it through a third party script installer.
If your host doesn’t provide that, you’ll need to have root access to install Mailman through the terminal.
You then have the option to do things like integrate Mailman with Postfix and automatically update aliases.
Alternatively, many hosts will install it for you if you request it.
Once installed, you’ll need to open your default configuration file in a file manager and configure it for your needs.
This is where you can set:
Virtual host addresses
URL patterns (HTTP or HTTPS)
Expect to spend some time reading through Mailman guides to make sure you know the right settings to input.
It can take a while the first time to setup, but then you won’t have to touch it again in most cases.
My Top 3 Mailman Hosting Options
You should primarily pick your host based on other server needs you have if you’re hosting a website on it.
Mailman does not consume much disk space or bandwidth unless you have a huge list and send many emails.
If all you’re hosting is a simple site plus Mailman, shared hosting is an inexpensive place to start.
SiteGround is a flexible web host with plans from cheap shared hosting to high performance dedicated servers. As your list grows, it’s easy to upgrade without much trouble.
There is a restriction on email storage space on shared plans, but it’s more than you’ll likely ever need. All plans come with cPanel for a control panel.
If you’re looking for cheap, reasonably reliable hosting in an email host, Bluehost is a good option.
They are best known for their “unlimited” shared hosting plans, although they do offer VPSs and dedicated servers if you need to scale up later. You get “unlimited” e-mail account storage on most plans.
If you already have a big list or website, I’d recommend considering Liquid Web. Liquid Web does not offer shared hosting, instead they specialize in cloud and dedicated servers. They have top-tier performance and come with 100% power uptime guarantee, as well as a dedicated server IP address, so you can be confident your emails will be sent out on time.
Liquid Web has a fantastic support team and migration team, so if you’re worried about migrating over your list or website, you can get a lot of help. Their support team is available 24/7, and is highly responsive in my experience.
Looking for the right Mailman host? SiteGround — rated #1 by our readers — supports Mailman and provides excellent speed, reliability, and customer support. Right now you can save up to 67% on SiteGround plans. Use this special discount link to get the deal.
Mailman Frequently Asked Questions
What is Mailman?
Mailman (or more precisely, GNU 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. Mailman is written in the Python programming language.
It is licensed under the GNU GPL Version 2.
Why do people 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. It also includes multi-language support, “real name” support, improved member management, and support for personalized deliveries.
Are there any reasons I should avoid GNU Mailman?
Mailman is an open-source platform that works at it’s own pace. If you are looking for a mailing list platform that is more responsive to your changing needs, you might be better off with a commercial service.
What are the alternatives to Mailman?
For people looking for a self-hosted mailing list software, phpList offers features that are very similar to Mailman. If you want a closed-loop opt-in system for your mailing list, Dada Mail is another alternative.
However, most solutions that work best in today’s email marketplace are not self-hosted, like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
What do I need to run Mailman on my web host?
Mailman runs on a Linux-based server. It must include a mail server as well as the Python language installed. Most hosting providers offer this, but be sure to check before making any agreements.
Because of potential issues with blacklisting and email deliverability, some hosting providers require customers who want to operate a mailing list to do so on a VPS or dedicated server.
This keeps the remainder of their customers unaffected by any issues you may face with your campaign. Again, discuss this with your hosting provider.
Do I need to be concerned about installation?
If you have a standard Apache server that runs Linux, then installing Mailman should not be that difficult of a task. It will require:
Web server that supports CGI/1.1 API
Mail server that can send messages such as Postfix, Exim, or sendmail
An up-to-date installation of Python.
Can I run Mailman on a Windows server?
Mailman does not run on Windows servers.
Is there any reason not to use a one-click installation wizard?
Assuming you have all the necessarily dependencies for GNU Mailman, using a one-click install should be fine. However, given its specific needs, you should probably consult with your hosting provider to make sure that the one-click installation is a viable option.
What does it mean that GNU Mailman is self-hosted?
Self-hosted web applications do not require you to personally own a server and manage it. Instead, self-hosted means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created Mailman.
Can I host Mailman on a shared hosting plan?
Shared hosting is probably not the best system for Mailman. Its requirements for a mail server and the dependence on Python make it a little more unique than most standard shared hosting plans can easily handle.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. But if you are planning on running Mailman to manage anything but the smallest of mailing lists, you should probably review pricing plans and options for VPS or dedicated hosting plans.
Do I have to know how to program to use Mailman?
As GNU 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.
It is a different matter if you really want to customize the experience for your subscribers. Some programming knowledge will then likely be necessary. Or you could hire a programmer.
If you need assistance with programming for Mailman, there is a list of preferred consultants on the Mailman wiki.
Freelance blogger by day, developer by night, Dale is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and digital marketing. He studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo before becoming a freelance writer.
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Who's Best for Mailman Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for Mailman.