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mailing list problems

If you use Yahoo mail for your subscription to the Northshield Hall mailing list, you may have received a message saying your email address has been disabled from the e-list due to excessive bouncing emails. This is a real email and you will need to follow the links to confirm your subscription to the Northshield Hall; you will not receive list emails until that action is completed.


By now, many of you -- especially those of you who use Yahoo!Mail -- will have discovered that Yahoo! has made a change that willfully and knowingly breaks nearly every "mailing list" in existence.

Of course, that's a mere user's perspective. What they've actually done is institute a change many believe is long overdue, that basically says, "If the message **claims** to be from one of our users, but didn't originate on one of our servers, it's **not** from one of our users. Reject it and quarantine it as spam."

Since nearly every mailing list server out there attempts to retain the original From: address while forwarding the message along, they all break.

(There was actually a time when this wasn't true for all servers; but it was considered to be non-compliant(!) to change the From header to be the mailing list's address).

There are "fixes" starting to circulate, including a patch for the software I run that manages most of Northshield's mailing lists. It's not available for me yet, but even if it were, it would only be a band-aid on the problem, and one way or the other, all of the lists will have to change how they work in order to interoperate with Yahoo!, now.

Ultimately, the real problem is that mailing list software in general is still chasing specifications that are 30 years old. They're all trying, more or less, to mimic the old mainframe LISTSERV software (although, ironically, if I remember correctly, most ancient LISTSERV lists wouldn't have had this problem, because they **did** change the From header to be the list itself).

I will be trying to get the software on Itasca updated soon, but all this will do is give list owners tools to mitigate the problem; it will not magically make everything work again.

Ultimately, like the Northshield Unofficial Gallery, the mailing list server may have outlived its utility in the modern Internet. I am not prepared to declare impending shutdown, but as the major providers start to finally tighten up e-mail security, the very way mailing list servers work may no longer be viable.

Posted by: Teffan Koerwent on 4/24/2014

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