History of LISTSERV



Eric Thomas develops LISTSERV in 1986 The mainframe computer on which LISTSERV was developed
  • The story of LISTSERV begins in 1986 when Eric Thomas, an engineering student in Paris, develops a software program to automate the management of email lists. Before this, all lists had to be administered manually, which was so cumbersome and time-consuming that it threatened the viability of email lists altogether.

    Eric Thomas' email list management program turned out to be a huge success and became known as LISTSERV.
  • Mail templates are added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to create automatic responses to specific commands and to customize administrative messages sent to subscribers.


  • LISTSERV adds database functions, making it possible for users to search list archives for messages about various topics.


  • Eric Thomas moves to CERN in Switzerland, where the World Wide Web was invented. He continues to develop LISTSERV.
  • The automatically maintained list of lists further improves searching capabilities.
  • The 1000th public LISTSERV list is created.


  • Eric Thomas is hired by SUNET (the Swedish University Network) to help build a computer network with the ambition of making Sweden the leading IT nation in Europe. Because of this, LISTSERV development continues in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Passive probes are added to LISTSERV.


  • The international BITNET network reaches its peak, connecting some 1,400 organizations in 49 countries for the electronic, non-commercial exchange of information in support of research and education. Thanks largely to the volunteer efforts of Eric Thomas, BITNET offers thousands of email lists based on LISTSERV.
  • Eric Thomas does not want his software to disappear with the mainframes, so he starts looking for ways to port LISTSERV to other environments, such as VMS and Unix.


  • Eric Thomas makes changes to the existing LISTSERV code to make it easier to port, should the need arise. LISTSERV is a large application and Eric estimates that it would take 35 to 50 of the mythical "man months" to complete the work, so he starts looking for sponsors and grants to fund the development.


  • The grant search proves unsuccessful. Going commercial appears to be the only way to save LISTSERV. The first legal incarnation of L-Soft, the temporary L-Soft, is born in a lawyer's drawer. The company closes its first big sale in July. The business plan is to sell maintenance and new versions of the mainframe product, and then use the proceeds to hire programmers to port the code to VMS and Unix.
  • LISTSERV is the first software to introduce double opt-in, which becomes the global gold standard for permission email. Double opt-in protects subscribers by requiring them to confirm their subscriptions before being added to a mailing list.


L-Soft is incorporated
  • In February of 1994, with only $3,000, a laptop and a plane ticket to New York, Eric Thomas officially founds L-Soft in order to further develop LISTSERV.
  • In May of 1994, L-Soft launches the first version of LISTSERV for VMS and Unix.


LISTSERV introduces first spam filter
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV for Windows NT, along with new versions of the VM, VMS and Unix products.
  • LISTSERV for Windows 95 is launched the same day as Windows 95.
  • LISTSERV introduces its first spam filter. This was not only a first for LISTSERV, but a first for the entire industry.
  • L-Soft launches an email list hosting service. The EASE service was started to allow customers to manage email lists without the need for hardware or software investments.


LISTSERV celebrates 10th anniversary LISTSERV is registered as a trademark LISTSERV adds a web interface
  • LISTSERV celebrates its 10th anniversary.
  • LISTSERV is registered as a trademark.
  • A LISTSERV list breaks the half-million subscriber mark – a new record for an email list at the time.
  • CataList, the official catalog of LISTSERV lists, is launched. CataList enables users to browse public LISTSERV lists, search for mailing lists of interest and get information about LISTSERV host sites over the Internet.
  • LISTSERV adds a web interface, making the software more user-friendly by simplifying email list management and allowing users to administer and control their lists from anywhere on the Internet.
  • Web templates are added to LISTSERV, allowing list owners to customize the look and feel of their web interface pages.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Lite
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Lite and LISTSERV Lite Free Edition, a freeware version for non-profit and hobby use.
  • LISTSERV powers Carl Bildt's newsletter. Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, started the Internet revolution in politics by being the first Prime Minister in Europe who gave out his email address to the public and published an electronic newsletter.


L-Soft launches NetPals
  • L-Soft launches NetPals, a free LISTSERV mailing list service for the international school community.


L-Soft opens headquarters in Stockholm
  • L-Soft releases a new version of LISTSERV with database connectivity and mail-merge capabilities, allowing users to send personalized email messages to targeted recipient lists.
  • L-Soft opens its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, to continue strengthening its position on the European market.


  • L-Soft opens a second European office in London, UK.
  • The number of LISTSERV subscriptions surpasses the 100 million mark. The software manages over 170,000 different email lists with more than 100 million list subscriptions worldwide.


    L-Soft announces partnership with F-Secure
  • L-Soft acquires tracking technology and the German development unit of a Swedish email marketing company. The plan is to integrate the tracking technology into LISTSERV.
  • L-Soft announces a partnership with Finnish security company F-Secure to integrate F-Secure's Anti-Virus software into LISTSERV. Millions of list subscribers are now protected from viruses. LISTSERV becomes the first mailing list manager in the industry to have built-in anti-virus capabilities.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro
  • L-Soft complements the LISTSERV product family by launching the LISTSERV Maestro email marketing solution. The new product enables the management, delivery, tracking and reporting of customized opt-in email marketing campaigns.
  • L-Soft forms L-Soft Germany GmbH to facilitate the continued development of LISTSERV Maestro.


  • L-Soft expands virus protection for email lists by launching the LISTSERV Anti-Virus Station, which extends the built-in virus protection to all LISTSERV platforms.


L-Soft launches LISTSERV Choice Awards
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 2.0 with a built-in recipient warehouse that combined data administration and target group creation in one interface.
  • The LISTSERV Choice Awards competition, the only industry-wide recognition program honoring the most interesting, creative, innovative and exemplary usage of LISTSERV mailing list technology, is launched.


  • LISTSERV support for embedded mail-merge is added.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV 15.0
  • L-Soft releases new versions of LISTSERV and LISTSERV Maestro that include DomainKeys support and a deliverability assessment feature to boost deliverability.
  • LISTSERV celebrates its 20th anniversary.
  • LISTSERV 15.0 is released, a milestone version of the pioneering email list manager, featuring a completely redesigned web interface.


LISTSERV adds RSS support
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 15.5, featuring support for RSS abstracts and the capability to connect to LDAP servers to authenticate user logins, insert LDAP attributes in mail-merge distributions and implement dynamic queries.


LISTSERV 16.0 is released
  • L-Soft celebrates the company's 15th anniversary.
  • LISTSERV Maestro 4.0 is released, featuring action tracking and a unique tracking permission system.
  • LISTSERV 16.0 is released, featuring UTF-8 support and an HTML newsletter template management system.


LISTSERV celebrates its 25th anniversary
  • L-Soft celebrates the 25th anniversary of LISTSERV.
  • LISTSERV Maestro 5.0 is released, featuring improved reporting and analytics as well as social media publishing, allowing senders to integrate their email marketing campaigns with emerging social media.


LISTSERV Maestro 6.0 is released L-Soft relocates its U.S. headquarters to Bethesda, MD
  • L-Soft celebrates 20 years in business.
  • LISTSERV 16.0-2014b, the latest version of L-Soft's email list management software, is released.
  • LISTSERV Maestro 6.0, the latest version of L-Soft's email marketing software, is released, featuring improved reporting, analytics and content creation.
  • L-Soft relocates its U.S. headquarters to Bethesda, MD. L-Soft is the first company to participate in Montgomery County's MOVE program, which aims to attract cybersecurity, green technology, IT and life sciences businesses to the county.


LISTSERV turns 30


  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 16.5 and LISTSERV Maestro 8.2, featuring a GDPR reporting tool and compliance with other recent regulations related to data protection, cybersecurity and privacy.



    L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 9.0
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 9.0, featuring a new user interface, responsive subscription pages and an improved content editor.


LISTSERV is a registered trademark licensed to L-Soft international, Inc.

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