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Free Mailing List Hosting

Mailing Lists

Free mailing list hosting is handy if you want to set up a discussion group but don't want to spend any money. Many of the free mailing list hosting companies offer a complete hosting package, which means that you don't have to choose any software or configure mail servers. If you are using a company that offers such a complete package, you will probably have to set up the list using a graphical Web interface - that is, a webpage with pictures on it where you have to fill in HTML forms. This kind of package is aimed at people who just want to set up a list without any technical hassles. If you have a more hands-on approach to setting up a mailing list, and you want to use or write programming scripts, this page is not written for you, but you should see our page on mailing list software for a few ideas.

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Free mailing list hosting: glossary

Sometimes free list hosts use industry jargon to tell you what features they have. Here are some of the most common words and phrases.

Administration: a feature that enables subscriptions to be handled by a human being. Useful if you want to filter out spam and frivolous applications.

Bounce handling: a system to deal with invalid addresses. More sophisticated systems will try an address several times before automatically removing it from the list. Others will delete the address after the first bounce.

Double opt-in: a system that enables subscribers to choose whether or not to be on your mailing list. They must confirm their subscription, usually by clicking on a link in an automated email.

Moderation: a feature that enables all posts to be filtered by a human being. See our page on types of consumer mailing list for more information.

Removal of cc strings: a process that hides all addresses on the list except the address of the individual recipient and the individual sender of each message. This is a better option for privacy and cuts down on the file size of each message.

Single opt-in: a process that is not usually a real opt-in. Users supply address details, usually for other reasons such as wanting to order a product or access information on a website. These details are used to subscribe them to a mailing list, and they are not asked whether or not they want this.

Popular free mailing list hosting companies

Here are some of the best-known companies that provide a mailing list hosting package.

Coollist is a free Web-based host for mailing lists, and can be used for discussion groups. Click here to go to the website, where you can browse lists of existing mailing lists or set up your own. Free mailing list options from Coollist include bounce handling, moderation, double opt-in and removal of cc strings.

Freelists is also Web-based, and has searchable Web-based list archives. It can be used for discussion groups, technical support groups and educational institutions. Each group is given a web page to advertise the list. There is also an announce-only option. Click here to go to the website.

MSN Groups (click here for the site) is one of the best-known hosts of mailing lists, but it isn't necessarily the best. The website is high on graphics, and people with dial-up connections may find the pages slow to load. There is a web-based message archive. MSN Messenger, a related service, allows private conversations in real time but has no archiving facility.

SmartGroups are for discussion and can be moderated or unmoderated . Groups are given a web page with basic group information. There is an event calendar and a system to allow the people in a group to vote. Click here to go to the website.

Topica has discussion and announce facilities, but seems to have been designed primarily for business use. The publicly readable sites tend to be set up by businesses for marketing purposes, while the genuine discussion sites are usually private. Click here to go to the website.

Yahoo! Groups is a very well known host of web-based mailing lists, but signing up is more difficult than the dumbed-down design would have you believe, and advertising is very obtrusive in the openly accessible, unmoderated lists. Reading through a discussion thread on the web archives often means having to watch an advertisement for a few seconds before being able to click through to the next message. The openly accessible lists have been abused by spammers, who pose as genuine members of discussion groups and post advertisements disguised as discussion messages. In addition to this, even the genuine messages have advertisements inserted into them by Yahoo. Closed and moderated lists on Yahoo! Groups (see our page on consumer mailing list s for definitions of these terms) have much less of a problem with spam and advertisements. However, many other free mailing list hosts are easier to use and have less advertising and spam. Click here to go to the website.