It is the abbreviation for software that was written and registered as a trademark by L-Soft International. The software was the first to offer electronic mailing software for the purpose of distributing messages to a group of email subscribers. It was implemented on IBM VM mainframes. Developed by Ira Fuchs, Daniel Oberst, and Ricky Hernandez in 1984 and was known as Listserv@Bitnic, it quickly became a key service on the BITNET network. The subscriptions had to be managed and were similar in function as the UNIX Sendmail system.

Eric Thomas, in late 1986, developed an independent application, identified as “Revised LISTSERV,” and was the first automated mailing list management application. Prior to Revised Listserv, email lists were managed manually.

Listserv was freeware from 1986 through 1993 and is now a commercial product developed by L-Soft, a company founded by Listserv author Eric Thomas in 1994. A free version limited to ten lists of up to 500 subscribers each can be downloaded from the company’s web site.Several other list management tools were subsequently developed, such as Lyris ListManager in 1997, Sympa in 1997, GNU Mailman in 1998.

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