OnlineGroups.Net has just released the latest version of GroupServer, an open source web-based mailing list manager. Via email, GroupServer works like traditional mailing list managers but it also has a web forum interface for reading and making posts, and list administration.
GroupServer provides the kind of web interface that users of Google Groups enjoy. Being open source, it also provides the administrative freedom that mailing list administrators expect.
The popular E-Democracy.Org Forums site http://forums.e-democracy.org is powered by GroupServer. Steven Clift, Director of E-Democracy.Org says "our forums combine e-mail lists, web forums, and basic social networking in one space". Clift says that a key challenge with hosting online groups is that people tend to split off into different spaces, based on their technology preference. "With GroupServer," he says, "folks can turn off the default e-mail delivery and follow posts via the web feed if they like."
The developers of GroupServer provide a hosted offering at https://onlinegroups.net/. This site enables visitors to easily start a free GroupServer site, to evaluate the software or to run a live site without having to worry about hosting, or upgrading. "The hosted service works well for organizations that want several groups in a dedicated site, and do not want to concern themselves with the operational details of GroupServer" says Dan Randow, Chief Wrangler at OnlineGroups.Net. Sites are advertising-free, and can easily be configured to use a custom domain. OnlineGroups.Net can also customize the visual style and content of sites.
The OnlineGroups.Net team, who are based in Christchurch and Wellington, New Zealand, as well as Canberra and Berlin, use their own system for collaboration. GroupServer groups can be public, private or secret, and can operate in discussion or announcement group mode. They provide traditional listserv features like moderation, and bounce-handling, as well as web-based file-sharing and user profiles.
For experienced administrators seeking more control over their site, GroupServer is also available for free download http://groupserver.org/downloads. While it is easy to get started with GroupServer, the system can be scaled to support thousands of lists and hundreds of thousands of users. GroupServer is built using Python and the web application platform Zope, and uses PostgreSQL for message data. GroupServer Technical Lead Richard Waid says that GroupServer provides a lot of flexibility for the administrator. "The implementation can be customized in many different ways to cater for different end users." OnlineGroups.Net offers specialized technical consulting for implementation, as well as custom development.
Randow says this release includes all the features required to run a large production site with GroupServer, packaged for easy installation. Getting a feel for GroupServer's features is easy as http://groupserver.org is itself a GroupServer site. The site also has a feature comparison between GroupServer, GNU Mailman and Google Groups.