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About the database

Where does the information come from?

This web site is a front end for the LISTSERV® LISTS database, which contains information about all the public LISTSERV lists on the Internet. While many of these lists do screen new subscriptions, this is usually done to make sure that newcomers understand what the list is about and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not about. As long as you respect the list charter, you can reasonably expect to be welcomed on any of the lists that you will find in this database.

How is the information updated?

The LISTS database is maintained automatically by LISTSERV. For optimal browsing performance, the web interface operates on a "frozen" copy of the database, which is updated at least once a day. The last update was on 16 Jul 2024 00:00. Using a frozen copy makes it possible to prepare frequently used indexes in HTML format, instead of having to generate them on the fly with every access.

Is this the same information as with LIST GLOBAL?

Yes, the information you get via the LIST GLOBAL command comes from the LISTS database. The LISTS database, however, contains more detailed information.

What about the PAML?

The "PAML" and the various other "lists of lists" are manually maintained resources. The advantage is that a human being gets an opportunity to remove unwanted information (try making a search for "TEST-L" in the database!) In general, manually maintained Internet resources tend to have higher content quality than computer maintained ones. The drawback, however, is that the information is seldom comprehensive or up to date. There are currently 52,706 lists in the LISTS database and, barring network outages, it never takes more than 24h for an entry to be updated. Most of the "lists of lists" on the other hand are someone's hobby, and are updated as time permits.

Why are some lists missing?

The LISTS database only contains information about public lists. Confidential lists and lists of purely local interest are excluded from the searchable database, and no information at all is available about Intranet lists (not even basic statistics about number of lists hosted), as they are generally firewalled from the Internet. The public lists only account for 12% of the total number of LISTSERV lists! If you are positive that a particular list should have been included, please contact the person who maintains your LISTSERV server (if you are the LISTSERV maintainer, contact L-Soft's help desk for assistance).

How do I get my list added?

In order to appear in the LISTS database, your list must not have a "Confidential=" keyword in its list header (unless it reads "Confidential= No", which is the same thing). Some configuration errors may prevent LISTSERV from broadcasting information about its lists; contact the person who maintains your LISTSERV server if in doubt (if you are the LISTSERV maintainer, contact L-Soft's help desk for assistance).

What if I am using Majordomo?

Majordomo and the other freeware packages do not have anything similar to the LISTS database. There are a number of search engines which regularly query known Majordomo sites and collect information about their lists, however this is a controversial practice which many list owners have objected to, as it publicizes the existence of their list whether they wanted it advertised or not. Even when the search engine allows list owners to remove their lists from the database, the list owners must actively look for new search engines and request that their lists be removed from them. List owners who wish to keep their lists confidential resent this "fire fighting" duty, especially as many mailing list search engines are funded by the advertisements that are displayed together with the search results.

L-Soft does not approve of this method of gathering information about mailing lists, and consequently we have only included LISTSERV lists in the current version of the CataList. LISTSERV lists have a keyword in their configuration that indicates whether or not the list owner wants the list to be publicized. Thus, no information is "stolen" without the list owner's consent.

Note: mailing list search engines that query LISTSERV sites usually ignore this keyword and advertise all LISTSERV lists. Since only 12% of LISTSERV lists are public, this increases the number of lists that they can advertise on their site by a very significant amount (386,121 as of today). This problem has been addressed in version 1.8c of LISTSERV; search engines (and spammers) are no longer able to collect the names of LISTSERV lists from sites running this version.

What would it take to migrate to LISTSERV?

If you are not adverse to the use of commercial software, you may want to look into migrating your list to LISTSERV or LISTSERV Lite. There is even a free edition of LISTSERV Lite, which allows you to run up to 10 lists of up to 500 subscribers each at no cost (the Free Edition, however, may not be used for commercial purposes).

Another option would be to migrate your list to a commercial mailing list provider that uses LISTSERV. Your list would then run on a centrally administered LISTSERV host, and you would not need to purchase any software license. L-Soft itself operates the largest LISTSERV site in the world and offers a list hosting service that you may want to check out.

How do I get my list removed?

To remove your list from the LISTS database, you must either mark it confidential by adding a "Confidential= Yes" keyword to the list header, or mark it "for local use only" by adding "Confidential= Service" and a suitable service area definition (for instance, "Service= Local"). Refer to the list owner's guide for more information.

But won't this also remove it from LIST GLOBAL?

Indeed, since the LIST GLOBAL information is extracted from the LISTS database, removing a list from the LISTS database will automatically remove it from LIST GLOBAL. The LISTS database does not provide any information which is not available through ordinary LISTSERV commands; it simply makes it easier to access this information.

Historical information

The LISTS database was introduced in 1987 on the BITNET network. The 1,000th list was registered in the database on May 6, 1988. Because of its fully distributed nature with no "master" server and no single point of failure, the LISTS database was regarded as a breakthrough at the time it was introduced. Its algorithms have scaled up through an order of magnitude increase in the number of entries, and the only changes made since its inception have been to increase the frequency of updates as more bandwidth became available, and to permit registered copies of the shareware version of LISTSERV to enter lists in the database.

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Last update: 16 Jul 2024 00:00 -0400 (52,706 lists, 939 sites)
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