Once you start using the Internet, you'll notice people talking about joining lists and participating in groups. While there are tens of thousands of ongoing newsgroups and forums on different subjects, there are also thousands of e-mail list discussions as well.
What's the difference? Newsgroups and forums are public discussions that anyone can subscribe to and participate in. You read what members have written and post comments if you choose. Think of it as an electronic bulletin board. On the other hand, a mailing list is a list of e-mail addresses of people interested in the same topic. You can think of them as electronic newsletters.Types of Lists
Mailing lists can be public or private, with as few as two participants or many thousands. Mailing lists are often used to provide subscribers with current information. For music fans, that might include upcoming concert dates or ticket purchasing details. Generally, there are two types of lists:
- Announcement-type lists, where you receive messages, but can't post to the list yourself.
- Discussion-type lists, where everyone on the list can participate. When a list subscriber sends a message, it goes to everyone on the list. You can reply to messages you receive, send new messages, or just read the messages without participating.
The key advantage of a mailing list over a newsgroup is that instead of having to go somewhere to read or retrieve postings, messages are automatically delivered to your e-mail box.
All of this traffic is automatically managed by programs called Mailing List Managers (MLMs). Two popular ones are Listserv and Majordomo.Subscribing
To join a mailing list, all you need is an e-mail address. To subscribe, you send a message to the list administrator (this is usually not an individual, just an automated process) and your e-mail address is added to the list. Subscribing to a mailing list is usually free. After you subscribe, you should receive a reply giving you details about the list and how to participate. Soon, you'll begin receiving messages.