NEW YORK, NY – After more than a decade, New York – based Internet company, AOL (America Online) has decided to discontinue hosting its LISTSERV mailing list service.
LISTSERV was a free mailing list service that allowed people from far-flung corners of the world to connect with each other and keep abreast of topics through email notifications.
LISTSERV was among the earlist forms of social connectivity along with IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and USENET (news groups). These were the early forerunners of social media. Before Twitter and Facebook, employing email with a free mailing list service was the dominant form of social connectivity.
The official shutdown date for LISTSERV is scheduled for December 1, 2011. Earlier, the company wanted to shut it down on November 1st, but then decided, instead, to push it out another month to December.
AOL sent out an email notice to mailing list administrators with a statement about the shutdown:
If your list is still actively used, please make arrangements to find another service prior to the shutdown date and notify your list members of the transition details,” … “If you are no longer actively using this service then no other action is required.
At one time in the late 1990s, the service’s popularity was at its peak and AOL was the third-largest provider of mailing lists. Currently The AOL LISTSERV mailing list service hosts about 640 mailing lists with topics that range from computer programming to ancient history to acting and theater to professional sports teams.
AOL’s decision to terminate the mailing list service may have been influenced by it’s decrease in popularity in recent years, but mailing lists provide a unique role in the online community.
A mailing list differs from social media sites like Facebook because they are specific to a certain topic. Comments posted on a Facebook wall of can get buried among a seemingly random array of subjects.
The LISTSERV email list manager was originally written in 1986 by Eric Thomas when he was a student in Paris. It is now a product of L-Soft, which was founded by Thomas and where he now serves as its CEO.