If you’re confused by the title, let me just clarify; I’m referring to mailing lists of the electronic kind (ie. email mailing lists). Typically, this means subscribing to an email newsletter of some sort.
I still subscribe to a few mailing lists. Nevertheless, if I were to be given RSS subscription options then I would jump ship in a heartbeat. I never really fully trust mailing lists in the first place. Regardless of whatever disclaimers, opt-out facilities, or other reassurances that my email address will only be used for that particular subscription I will never know for certain that my email wouldn’t be sold to a third party.
Although anti-spam technologies are becoming more advanced, the fact that spam exists is already a major problem. Right now, web servers are not enough being web servers. Customers want them to handle their databases and emails as well. What does this mean? It means that resources have to be allocated to these areas.
Now add the fact that any decent web hosting company would like to keep their customers happy, so they run anti-spam services as well. Most non-techies wouldn’t know this, but the fact is that anti-spam software consume quite a hefty amount of system resources. Sometimes it’s more than the Apache web server and MySQL database server resources combined!
Now, let’s relate the spam handling problem with mailing lists which is the topic of discussion. I have no beef with legit mailing lists that actually observe and respect their subscribers’ privacy. However, even legit mailing lists can potentially be hacked into and a wealth of email addresses harvested for illegitimate purposes (ie. spam). Maybe I’m overly protective of my email address (some say I treat them as if they’re checking accounts), but better be safe than bombarded with spam eternally, right?
Furthermore, even though there are laws that criminalizes spam, it still doesn’t address the fact that computing resources are inevitably wasted just trying to deal with the problem.
What if you’re a mailing list owner and your customer base consists of people who are unfamiliar with pull subscription methods like RSS? The worst you could do is to run a mailing list on your web server. Again, this adds more strain to your server (which should be a web server in the first place, not a mailing list host). It’s recommended that you go with a company that specializes in mailing list management; one of the most well-known in this industry would be AWeber.
So what’s your take on this issue? Do you join mailing lists? What’s been your experience with them? If you run your own mailing lists, then I would like to hear your take on this issue as well.