History of LISTSERV


L-Soft is celebrating 30 years of customer success in 2024, but how did it all start? Let's explore ...


Eric Thomas develops LISTSERV in 1986
  • The beginnings of L-Soft trace back to 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.


Eric Thomas moves to CERN in Switzerland
  • Eric Thomas moves to CERN in Switzerland, where the World Wide Web was invented. He continues to develop LISTSERV.
  • The 1000th public LISTSERV list is created.


Eric Thomas is hired by SUNET
  • 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
  • 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 Unix and VMS.


Developing LISTSERV
  • 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.


LISTSERV is the first software to introduce double opt-in
  • 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 Unix and VMS.
  • 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, Eric Thomas incorporates L-Soft in the United States so that LISTSERV can be developed further and ported from VM to other operating systems, such as Unix and VMS.
  • In May of 1994, L-Soft launches the first version of LISTSERV for Unix and VMS.


LISTSERV introduces first spam filter
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV for Windows NT and 95, along with new versions of the Unix, VMS and VM products.
  • LISTSERV introduces its first spam filter. This was not only a first for LISTSERV, but a first for the entire industry.
  • L-Soft launches its first email list hosting service. The EASE service is an early example of a cloud-hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) solution and allows customers to manage their email lists without the need to purchase any special hardware or to license the software.


LISTSERV adds a web interface
  • LISTSERV is registered as a trademark.
  • LISTSERV adds its first 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.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Lite
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Lite, an entry-level version, and LISTSERV 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 LISTSERV 1.8d with database connectivity and mail-merge capabilities, allowing customers 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 office in London


L-Soft announces partnership with F-Secure


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro
  • L-Soft complements the LISTSERV product family by launching the LISTSERV Maestro email marketing solution. The new product guides marketers through each step of campaign development, including message creation, response tracking, reporting and analytics.
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 1.8e, featuring a redesigned web interface with task wizards as well as several types of usage and list activity reports to simplify email list management.


L-Soft participates in the European Union workshop on spam


L-Soft launches LISTSERV Choice Awards
  • L-Soft celebrates its 10th anniversary.
  • L-Soft launches 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.
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 14.3 and LISTSERV Maestro 2.0 with improved spam-control features and a built-in recipient warehouse that combines data administration and target group creation in one interface.


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.
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 15.0, a new version of the pioneering email list manager, featuring a completely redesigned web interface with dashboards for both server administrators and list owners.


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
  • LISTSERV Maestro 4.0 is released, featuring a unique tracking permission system, which allows marketers to send a mailing to a mixed group of recipients and gather personal tracking information from those who have given permission and non-identifiable, unique tracking from those who haven't.
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 16.0, featuring an HTML newsletter template management system and UTF-8 support, allowing lists to operate in virtually any language, adding value and inclusiveness to global and scientific communication.


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.


L-Soft relocates its U.S. headquarters to Bethesda, MD
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 16.0-2014b and LISTSERV Maestro 6.0, featuring DMARC support.
  • L-Soft celebrates 20 years in business and relocates its U.S. headquarters to Bethesda, Maryland. 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.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 7.0
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 7.0, featuring support for touch devices, responsive HTML newsletter templates, improved tracking reports and easier message sequence creation, allowing for better management of automated drip campaigns.


LISTSERV becomes GDPR compliant


L-Soft releases LISTSERV 17.0
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV 17.0, featuring a brand new web interface built to run on all types of devices, including mobile phones. It also features a new customization interface, seamless list archives with forum and blog modes, an HTML newsletter builder and an integrated newsletter template library.


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


LISTSERV celebrates its 35th anniversary
  • Email and LISTSERV, two of the most consequential IT innovations that are still thriving today, both reach key milestones as email marks 50 years since its invention and LISTSERV celebrates its 35th anniversary.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 10.1
  • L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 10.1, featuring multidimensional analytics, mobile tracking and upgraded drip marketing capabilities for managing automated email campaigns.


L-Soft releases LISTSERV Maestro 11.0
  • LISTSERV Maestro 11.0, the latest major version of L-Soft's email marketing platform, is released, featuring improved integration with LISTSERV, allowing people to manage their discussion groups, newsletters and email marketing campaigns on a single unified platform.
  • Permission email is thriving, launched by the double opt-in invention in LISTSERV 30 years ago. Double opt-in, also called confirmed opt-in, protects subscribers by requiring them to confirm their subscriptions before being added to a mailing list.


L-Soft celebrates 30 years in business
  • L-Soft celebrates 30 years in business as the exclusive provider of LISTSERV® email list and email marketing technology for global digital communications.

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

See Guidelines for Proper Usage of the LISTSERV Trademark for more details.

All other trademarks, both marked and unmarked, are the property of their respective owners.