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What is a Mailing List?

In an era when most online discussion is carried out using browser-based applications or apps like Facebook and Twitter, many people don't know what a mailing list is, how it works or what its advantages are. As ever, Wikipedia has an answer.

In a nutshell, you subscribe to an email service which allows you to send email to a particular email address, and have your email automatically distributed to everyone else who has subscribed. In a discussion list people then reply resulting in discussion, which the remaining subscribers can either read passively or contribute to as and when they have something to contribute.

Most people who access the Internet are also regular users of email, and most good email programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird are powerful programs which can be used to divide your email into separate folders and sort your email by date, sender, subject etc. This makes email the ideal discussion medium, particularly as messages are, effectively, delivered to your door, rather forcing you to go looking for them at a web site. Of course, if you use web based email these distinctions may seem moot at best, but then so be it - that's yet another advantage of email - you can collect it any time, any place, anywhere. Shaken or stirred.

But doesn't all this attract spam? No, actually it doesn't. Because mailing lists are essentially private, access is intrinsically limited to those who subscribe and precisely because they're not on a web site anywhere, they are very secure and your email address is guaranteed not to attract any additional spam as a result of subscribing to a mailing list.

In short, you can subscribe to a mailing list safely and also unsubscribe whenever you wish, simply by sending the appropriate command, by email to the list server.

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