Eric Thomas is one of the few true pioneers in Internet technology. In 1986, Eric invented LISTSERV, the first email list management program, representing a major milestone in Internet history. Eric originally created LISTSERV while he was a university student, effectively launching the email list communication industry. In 1994, Eric started L-Soft, for which he serves as CEO.
From an idea ...
In 1985, a university student named Eric Thomas discovered a new passion: the Internet. Since then, he has played an active role in the development of the Internet. In 1986, Eric invented LISTSERV in Paris, France. LISTSERV was the first email list management software – the only program to automate email list distribution. At that time, Europe and the United States were connected by two links with a capacity of 9.6 kbps each, and it could take days for email to reach across the Atlantic Ocean.
Eric graduated in 1988 and moved to CERN in Switzerland (where the World Wide Web was invented). He then moved to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1990, where he was hired to build a computer network by SUNET, whose ambition was to make Sweden the leading IT nation in Europe in spite of the country's small size (8 million inhabitants).
... to a lasting reality
Two decades have passed since Eric invented LISTSERV – beginning the email list management industry in the process – and today LISTSERV continues to set the industry standard. To say that technology has progressed greatly since the industry began in 1986 is an understatement.
L-Soft Founder and CEO Eric Thomas, who began the email list communication industry in 1986 with the invention of LISTSERV, shares his reflections, visions and musings in LISTSERV at Work, L-Soft's quarterly newsletter. Read the Q & A that was first published in the LISTSERV 20th Anniversary Issue:
LISTSERV at Work (Anniversary Issue)
Eric Thomas has spoken at numerous conferences, trade shows and events. Selected presentations include:
E-post igår, idag och imorgon: möjligheter och visioner (Swedish)
Email Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Opportunities and Visions
E-postmarknadsföring 2.0, Guest Speaker, February 22, 2007
Future Approaches to Stop Spam: Certification Services for Everyone (English) (Swedish) (Swedish Audio)
The Internet Days (Internetdagarna), October 24, 2006
AOL: You Have Certified Mail! Will Paid E-mail Lead to Separate, Unequal Systems or is it the Foolproof Answer to Spam?
Public Hearing: The California Senate Select Committee on E-Commerce, Wireless Technology and Consumer-Driven Programming, April 3, 2006
Freeing the Internet from Spam – Opt-In, Filtering and Other Approaches
IP-Dagarna, November 19, 2003
The Evolution of E-Mail (English) (Swedish)
IP-dagarna, Keynote, November 19, 2002
IT Issues: New Frontiers in E-mail Communication: LISTSERV & Beyond
IBM SHARE, July 25, 2001
The WWW as a Generic Tool Interface – Users' and Programmers' Ideas
TERENA-NORDUnet Networking Conference, June 9, 1999
LISTSERV for the non-technical user
The Network Services Conference, October 13, 1993
Organized by EARN in conjunction with EUnet/EurOpen, NORDUnet, RARE, and RIPE.
"LISTSERV started in 1986 as a weekend project to improve the usefulness of mailing lists. I had no idea at the time that there would be so much interest from so many people, let alone that I would still be improving LISTSERV 20 years later."
"My goal was simply to create a tool that would allow mailing lists to prosper while making life easier for subscribers and list owners. It was a simple idea whose success exceeded all my expectations. Sometimes you set about solving a small problem, and later on you realize that you have actually solved a big problem."
"I had no idea in 1986 that LISTSERV would end up playing such an important role in people's lives, in some cases even saving lives. ACOR (Association of Cancer Online Resources) is the most dramatic example – you have people with a problem and they form a list to talk to each other. They're not doctors, but they connect with each other and with researchers running clinical trials. When you see something like that, it's amazing."
– Eric Thomas about LISTSERV's 20th anniversary in 2006
"I am always amazed by the creativity and ingenuity of LISTSERV users. Who would have thought that LISTSERV lists would be used to help cure cancer, find lost dogs or solve crimes?"
– Eric Thomas about email lists (LISTSERV Choice Awards 2004)
"We wanted virus writers to know that they will not succeed in changing the way people use email. Mailing lists are and will remain an effective, time-saving communication tool"
– Eric Thomas about LISTSERV's built-in virus protection in 2001
"We have come a long way since I flew to the U.S. and founded L-Soft with three thousand dollars and a laptop. We owe our success to the reliability and scalability of our offerings, and to our corporate culture that promotes diversity and encourages employees to develop to their fullest potential."
– Eric Thomas in 2000 when Deloitte & Touche honored L-Soft with its Maryland Technology Fast 50 Award
"As a student, it can be very difficult to get support or funding for your ideas. When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to be offered free access to an IBM mainframe at another university, with no strings attached, and this is how LISTSERV came to be. If I hadn't had the freedom to work as I pleased or if the university had asserted ownership rights to my work, I would probably have done something else with my time. I wish more companies would extend such opportunities to students because, in the long run, it benefits everyone."
– Eric Thomas when L-Soft earmarked donations for student organizations in 1994
Eric Thomas has authored numerous articles on email communications and other technology topics. Here is a list of selected articles:
Dealing with Spam Is Just One of Many Costs of Doing Business
DMNews.com, February 2006
EU workshop on unsolicited commercial communications or spam – Brussels, October 16, 2003
L-Soft Comment Paper, October 2003
Françoise Becker, Eric Thomas, Outi Tuomaala
Sverige – försökskaninen för den nya ekonomin
Computer Sweden, February 12, 2001
CRM: rising to the e-mail challenge
Customer Loyalty Today, July-August 2000
History of LISTSERV
Eric Thomas, 1995
The Revised List Processor (LISTSERV@FRECP11)
NetMonth, July 1986
L-Soft facilite la communication par e-mail
Francofil, May 2004
De byggde Internet i Sverige
The Swedish Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-SE), 2003
Inga Hamngren, Jan Odhnoff
E-mail lists get virus protection
CNN.com/SCI-TECH, October 30, 2001
A Social History of Bitnet and Listserv, 1985-1991
The IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, April-June 2000 (Vol. 22, No. 2) pp. 32-41
David Alan Grier, Mary Campbell
Succén som Sverige nobbade
Dagens IT/Datateknik 3.0, October 1999
Lista postittaa viestit maailmalle
Helsingin Sanomat, October 8, 1999
A Family Links Up, But United We Fall
New York Times, May 14, 1998
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