Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(July 1994)

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Subject: Clarifications regarding LISTSERV
From: Eric Thomas <ERIC @ SEARN . SUNET . SE>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 1994 19:58:48 +0200
To: list-managers @ GREATCIRCLE . COM

I have been sent  a copy of a couple of messages  recently posted to this
list. Some of these messages contain incorrect information, which I would
like to correct. I understand that  these are genuine mistakes and am not
trying  to  insinuate anything  :-)  I  just  want to  prevent  incorrect
information from spreading and getting out of control.

>The  real  LISTSERV  (Revised  LISTSERV)  relies  on  Bitnet  networking
>transport protocols.

This was true  until L-Soft international, the company  that now develops
and sells LISTSERV, released LISTSERV-TCP/IP  in March 94 (back then, for
VM only). LISTSERV-TCP/IP is fully  compatible with the regular LISTSERV,
except of course that you lose the functions that are specific to BITNET,
like NJE  delivery. LISTSERV-TCP/IP interoperates with  regular LISTSERVs
running version 1.7f (APR93) or higher (96% of the LISTSERVs do).

>A complex Unix list processor was written, in a partial emulation of the
>Bitnet LISTSERV. The  "Listserv for Unix" system  was renamed "listproc"
>last summer, after threats from the original LISTSERV author, because it
>differs in  user interface and  list owner interface from  LISTSERV, and
>was accused  of misleading  users who  would confuse  it with  the "real

Well,  ListProc  users  were  contacting me  for  assistance  on  solving
ListProc problems, saying they saw my  name in the help file and, between
that and  the name of the  product, assumed I  wrote it, in spite  of the
copyright on the documentation :-)  In many instances these requests were
even made on public lists, so anyone can check I'm not making it up :-) I
have never had that  problem with Majordomo, and in fact  I never had any
problem with  Majordomo or  its authors.  There is clearly  a need  for a
powerful, free list manager for people who  would not be able to afford a
commercial product,  and Majordomo  is a good  choice because  the source
code is  automatically available  and people  can make  the modifications
they want or need. This was one of the reasons for the initial success of
LISTSERV (which was  initially written in REXX, a  scripting language for
VM). If  people had a  problem, they could easily  change the code  to do
what they wanted. They would then tell me about the change they made, and
I would  arrange for it  to be possible without  code change in  the next

>LISTSERV and  ListProc want the  whole world to be  interconnected, i.e.
>all mailing  list server hosts  can know  about each other  and exchange
>info on remote lists; someday I imagine there'll be a DNS-like namespace
>of mailing lists and server hosts out there somehow.

Actually, it already exists. You  can reach any non-confidential LISTSERV
list  by writing  to  listname @
 NET, or  the  (human) manager  by
writing  to listname-request @
 NET,  the  LISTSERV  by writing  to
listname-server @
 NET,  and so  on. You  can get  more information
about   that   by  ordering   (via   GET)   the  file   NSC93US.PS   from
 SE  (the  handout for  a  LISTSERV  tutorial at  the
NSC'93 conference).

>(they asked for LISTSERV  but since this is on Unix,  they would have to
>get listproc instead).

The first version of the (real) LISTSERV for unix was announced in May 94
and formally  released on  June 23.  While some of  the code  hasn't been
ported yet, there are  already 90,000 lines of code and  about 75% of the
functionality of  the original  VM server. The  remainder will  be ported
over the next year or so. LISTSERV is also available for VMS and is being
ported to NT, Windows 4.0, and quite possibly OS/2. The code is very easy
to port to new environments - the first unix version was created from the
VM version  in about a  week, and polished in  another week. Then  we ran
into all  sorts of weird  situations with  sendmail which took  another 2
weeks to isolate and do something about, but that's another story :-)

>With Listproc,  if you can get  it configured and running  smoothly, you
>can  apparently join  a growing  inter-operating network  of cooperating
>"peer"  list hosts,  and even  inter-operate with  Bitnet LISTSERV  list
>hosts too.

That is  not quite  true. While  both systems  support peered  lists, you
cannot peer a LISTSERV  list with a ListProc list. You  can make a number
of kludges which somehow cause messages  to flow back and forth without a
loop,  but you  will not  get  load balancing,  request forwarding,  etc.
Technically, such setups are not peers, but "mirrors".

>An  outfit called  CREN,  an  offshoot of  Educom,  has  taken over  the
>development of both the Bitnet LISTSERV, and the Unix Listproc,

This is not correct. While CREN  did purchase the rights to ListProc from
Tasos  in March,  they  have absolutely  no  involvement with  LISTSERV's
development. They simply purchased service on behalf of all their members
for the period 1 Dec 93 to 30 Jun 94 (in fact it is more complicated, and
I won't try  to sum up 30 pages  of legalese in 2 lines, but  at any rate
this  is a  service/support purchase  and CREN  did not  acquire anything
closely  or  remotely resembling  software  ownership).  The purchase  of
ListProc was kept secret from us  during the negotiations and announced 6
days after  the signature of  the service contract.  So, as you  can see,
there is really no tie between  CREN and LISTSERV other than this service


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