Mailing Lists -- Listserv History

BITNET proved the value of networking to higher education and motivated that community to take a leadership role in establishing NSFnet and the Internet. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those whose vision started and nurtured it 15 years ago, and to the many individuals and organizations whose contributions and dedication have helped it grow and become increasingly useful during the intervening years.

Winding Down BITNET-NJE; 1996.

The first Listserv was conceived of by Ira Fuchs from BITNET and Dan Oberst from EDUCOM (later EDUCAUSE), and implemented by Ricky Hernandez also of EDUCOM, in order to support research mailing lists on the BITNET academic research network.

This first version was put into operation and hosted many lists, but was eclipsed in 1986 by the new version developed by Eric Thomas from CERN, originally called Revised Listserv.

Listserv was originally developed on IBM mainframes, and still retains some of the record oriented, batch job look and feel of that computer environment. However, it was later ported to run on Unix, IBM VMS, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and MPE.

By the year 2000, Listserv ran on computers around the world managing more than 50 thousand lists, with more than 30 million subscribers, delivering more than 20 million messages a day over the Internet.


  • Online archives of the LISTSERV site administrators’ mailing list from 1986 to today here.
  • LISTSERV software timeline here.
  • Early history of LISTSERV software here.