Email got its start in the late 1970’s but it wasn’t until the mid-1980’s and the personal computer revolution that things really took off. Software to manage email lists first appeared in 1986 when Eric Thomas created LISTSERV the first group email software. At this time it ran on wardrobe size mainframe computers. Eric developed LISTERV at CERN where Tim Berners-Lee was creating the world wide web. Over the years LISTSERV was ported over to other operating systems eventually hitting Unix in 1994 and Windows in 1995.
As personal computers became more common place in homes and offices programs like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office emerged with email and the ability to group email addresses together. Even though this type of group email was limited to only grouping people within the same corporate email system its ease of use made it a huge boon to companies who created group email addresses for everything. This was the first exposure to group email for many people.
In 1999 the GNU project created its own mailing list manager MailMan. Developed by John Viega and Ken Manheimer this was a free software, open source alternative to LISTSERV matching many features which people came to expected from their group email system; searchable archives, moderators, privacy features, a web Interface, spam filters.
As the dot-com bubble grew and burst in the early 2000’s the number of email users and people exposed to group email grew exponentially from 10 million email users in 1995 to 500 million in 2000 and 1 billion in 2007. By this time email was a part of everyone’s on-line life and using group email was just part of that.
Gmail arrived in 2007 and even though Blackberry had been putting email in people hands since 1999 it wasn’t until the iPhone and the smartphone revolution that made email truly mobile for huge numbers of people. Indeed, the mobile revolution made email user number sky rocket even more hitting 2 billion by 2010 and 3 billion only one year later.
During all this time LISTSERV is still going strong being actively developed at L-Soft and running most the biggest and busiest email lists in the world. Within offices and corporations emailing groups of people is second nature; a department, project or team doesn’t exist until it has its own email address!
With the ubiquity of cloud computing and the rise of SaaS (software as a service) businesses it was inevitable that group email would move with the times and reap the benefits of everything that widely distributed computing can offer.
So it is today that Gaggle Mail is further pushing the popularity of group email by not only allowing anyone to be part of a group email list but allowing anyone to setup and run their own group with the most easy to use group email system available.