Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(February 1998)

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Subject: Re: Looking for mailing list hosting (review of
From: Cyndi Norman <cnorman @ best . com>
Date: Sat, 14 Feb 1998 13:21:37 -0800 (PST)
To: editorman @ mindspring . com
Cc: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM, cnorman @ shell7 . ba . best . com
In-reply-to: <3 . 0 . 1 . 32 . 19980213183112 . 00fe93f0 @ pop . mindspring . com> (message from Steve on Fri, 13 Feb 1998 18:31:12 -0500)
Reply-to: cnorman @ best . com

   Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 18:31:12 -0500
   From: Steve <editorman @
 mindspring .

   Hi, I have a 68,000 person weekly announcement list (24K), looking for
   hosting.  Looking for something that can be run without unix experience.

A couple people have been asking this question and someone else mentioned
my ISP,  So I thought others might find it useful if I gave a
review of for hosting mailing lists.  I hope other people will
provide similar information for different hosts.

Background: I've run the Immune Mailing List for over 7 years.  Most of
that time it was at as a manually run list.  The only thing
it did automatically was to forward posts to the list.  I've been with for over years.  I switched my list over a little more than a year

Best provides mailings lists for free to anyone with an account on their
system.  There are currently no limits on number of lists or traffic,
though that may change (and they may reject excessive numbers now, I don't

The software they use is called BestServ.  They used to have majordomo but
decided to write their own instead.  It's fairly decent software with all
the basic features but, as you grow and develop more needs, it's incredibly
frustrating since a lot of features are simply not available.  The commands
are easy but different from all other software so users make tons of
mistakes.  You must use this software and may not run lists off your
account directly (via procmail or anything else).

BestServ has: digests and regular lists plus post-only status; option for
posts from subscribers only; option for authenication of functions; option
for moderation of functions and posts; auto removal of any address that
bounces 4 days in a row (no way to make exceptions)

BestServ lacks: no-post status (the only ways to stop someone from posting
is to moderate the list or unsubscribe them); user or domain banning (no
matter how many times you kick someone off, they can always return); the
ability to see bounce messages

Support is practically nil.  There is a local USENET group, best.majordomo,
for listowners to talk.  But, unlike every other service on best, there is
no staff person reading the group (as far as we can tell).  Tech support
people don't know how to answer BestServ questions.  It's next to
impossible to get help from other staff.  There is a good FAQ for all the
tech stuff, but it's not updated so a couple features aren't documented.
You have to read best.majordomo to find these things out.  Fortunately, the
software almost never breaks (and when it does, it gets fixed).

Turnaround time for posts ranges from acceptable (as little as 30 minutes,
but usually 1-2 hours) to outragous (as long as 4 days).  The very long
times are not common (though they increase when other parts of the net are
down, especially Mae-West and AOL).  Average times are 12-24 hours,
although we'll often have a few weeks here and there with turnarounds
averaging 4-6 hours.  Best is not the place for a very time-sensitive list.
Turnaround time for list commands is fast, a minute or two.

How much UNIX do you have to know?  None.  All commands are done via email
using any mailer you wish.  This is a bit of a pain if you're tweaking the
info or config files, but works fine for subscription issues.

Who has access?  The list must be started by someone with an account at
best, but it can be moderated by anyone in the list of moderators (set in
the config file by the listowner).  So you can do everything you wish from
any account.  You never have to log into best.  There is password

Domain names?  No, this is a problem for many.  Your list name is
immune @
 lists .
 best .
 com (assuming you're list is called "immune").  You can't
use a custom domain name.

Costs?  A Best account costs $30/month with a $30 set up fee.  For the
money you get a dialup PPP line (San Francisco Bay Area local numbers only)
and a UNIX account with 25 megs of web/ftp space plus 20 megs of other disk
space.  You get access to a web (and ftp) server with full cgi.  There is a
huge news feed, irc (with multiple connections and bots allowed), FreeBSD
Unix with tons of available programs, and low load averages.  Accounts with
more disk space or allowed web activity cost more (same setup).  Support
for most account activities is pretty good.

Non Profit special: this is the best thing going here I'd say.  If you are
a registered non-profit organization (need proof), you can get a full
account with all the perks for half the monthly fee and no setup costs.
I've got one and have helped two other orgs set one up.

Disclaimer: I have been recommending for 2 years.  A short while
ago they (finally) started giving a finder's fee to customers who produce
lasting referrals.  I won't turn down any finder's fees (one month of free
service) but I will make the recommendations regardless.

I hope this has been useful.  I can answer any other questions for people.
Best's homepage is  For more on mailing lists, go to


"There's nothing wrong with me.  Maybe there's                     Cyndi Norman
something wrong with the universe." (ST:TNG)                   cnorman @
 best .

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