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BlueHost Shared Basic plan
10GB 5GB
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A2 Hosting Entry VPS plan
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GreenGeeks EcoSite Starter plan
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LiquidWeb 1 GB VPS plan
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50GB 5,000GB
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CoolHandle Starter plan
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Lypha Simple Plan
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Ultrahosting VPS-L10 Linux Plan
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10GB 500GB
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What is Mailman?

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 Is 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.

Features

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.

Alternatives

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:

There are many reasons to use Mailman:

  • Powerful features
  • Widespread support
  • Relatively simple
  • Free.

There really are no downsides to Mailman.

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 Hosting 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 V{S 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.

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