Washington, DC (June 18, 1997) – If you asked Internet mailing list users to describe the most significant improvements in the day-to-day operation of their mailing lists in the last few years, many would tell you about spam filtering, integration with the WWW, fully automated bounce processing, increased security and flexibility, MIME enhancements or HTML mail. Surprisingly, the most frequent answer would probably be "Nothing has changed for our list because we are still using the same software as 5 years ago; we are just an informal group and we do not have any funding to buy commercial software".
Once the spearhead of mailing list development, virtual communities have been left behind when the Internet turned into a commercial enterprise. Budget cuts have forced universities to end their sponsorship of lists not directly related to the university's mission, leaving many communities without a home. Some have been lucky enough to find a high-profile corporate sponsor; for instance, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) sponsors genealogy, baseball and dog-related mailing lists through its MAIL.EWORLD.COM service, which quickly became the 6th largest LISTSERV® site in the Internet. Likewise, as part of its "Give back to the Net" initiative, America Online (NYSE: AOL) rescued hundreds of virtual communities, becoming the 3rd largest LISTSERV site in the process and one of only two sites to have a combined mailing list membership in excess of 1 million.
For all these efforts, however, thousands of informal communities now have to rely on less than ideal accommodations – typically, one of the members' employer agreed to tolerate the presence of the list on that person's PC or workstation. While the machines in question are usually powerful enough to deliver fast service, freeware mailing list management software has not improved much in the last few years, and functionality leaves to be desired. Likewise, all the popular freeware packages are unix based and require programming skills for simple customization tasks, which some of the less technical groups may lack.
To allow these communities to upgrade to commercial grade software at no charge, L-Soft international, Inc., is making available a free version of its LISTSERV Lite mailing list manager, strictly for non-profit use. Dubbed the "Free Edition", this package is functionally identical to the commercial LISTSERV Lite product, with a limit of 10 mailing lists of up to 500 subscribers each. In fact, the Free Edition also serves as the evaluation kit for the commercial product. Upgrades can be downloaded at no charge as they become available and, in the Internet tradition, support is provided through a mailing list where users of the Free Edition exchange tips and solutions with each other. The Free Edition is available for Windows NT, Windows 95, 10 major unix brands and OpenVMS. For more information, see the L-Soft Web site.
"Over 600 mailing lists have already switched from freeware packages to the LISTSERV Lite Free Edition", says John Karpovich, Senior Sales Manager at L-Soft, "and we expect many others to follow as the word spreads. Whether used to manage a weekly club newsletter, a focused discussion on local politics or a casual forum on the game of Canasta, the Free Edition will help facilitate and promote communication, building long-lasting relationships in the process."
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