Mailman Mailing Lists at UNH

Recipe R02 looks at how to create a self-subscription link on your organization's web page.

• What is Mailman?
• What Can Mailman Do For You?
• Subscriber FAQ
• List Owner FAQ
• New List FAQ
• The List Owner's Cookbook

R02: Adding a Subscribe Link to Your Web Page


You would like to make it easy for people to self-subscribe to your list from your organization's web site.


There are three basic approaches available to you.
  1. Add a web link that takes advantage of your list's special subscription request email address.

        <a href=" Request...">
        Request a subscription to the My.List demo mailing
    This should automatically bring up your vistor's own email program with a subscription request ready to send to the Mailman robot.

  2. Add a link that points to your Mailman list's own home page which has a self-subscription request form.

        Our organization's 
        <a href="" target="_blank">
        mailing list home page</a>.
    The example above uses the "target" option to open the page in a new window or tab.

  3. Embed a subscription form right on your own page. Here is an example that you are welcome to steal. Just don't forget to replace "My.List" and "my.list" with your actual list's name.

Try It

  1. Request a subscription to the My.List demo mailing list.

  2. Our organization's mailing list home page

  3. HTML example page illustrating how to create your own custom subscription request form.


Mailman provides three methods for people to request to be added or removed from your mailing list:

  1. Provide a link that uses a "mailto" to your list's "-join" or "-leave" address. For most vistors, this will bring up their email program with a message ready to send to the robot. While this has the advantage of automatically providing the vistor's return address, it may be confusing to some.

  2. Provide a link to your list's own home page. There your visitor can use form provided. This approach provides the subscriber with everything they need to know about subscribing and unsubscribing from your list.

  3. Using the special subscribe URL for your list to submit the subscription data directly to Mailman. This will require you to do some basic HTML web form coding on your page, but it allows you to provide a clearly branded experience for your visitors.

Note that we have been using the term subscription request. The default setting for all lists when they are initially created is to require that the visitor confirm their request by replying to an automatically generated email, and then the list owner's final approval before being added to the list. (See List Owner List Owner Q-09: for how to change this setting.)

Points to Consider

One of the problems with asking a would be subscriber to supply their own email address is that the address provided will most likely work for successfully delivering mail, but it may not be the subscriber's actual return address. For example, Fred may customarily give out his email address as:
which is an address that will certainly reach him. But any email sent by Fred has his corporate preferred email address format as his return address:
For a discussion list, Fred will become aware of the problem the first time he attempts to post. Mailman will not recognize the sender Fred.Flintstone, as being the subscriber fredf, and will summarily reject his posting.

In contrast, for an announcement list where subscribers do not make postings, this mismatch will go unnoticed since the fredf address works just fine for delivery. But when Fred eventually wants to sign-off the list, he'll have problems. Mailman will take Fred's return address from his unsubscribe email message and, not finding it on the list, unhelpfully tell him that he is not subscribed to the list at all. Fred will be very confused.

Bottom line, the subscription web form on your list's home page uses the email address provided by the subscriber, even if the return address on the confirmation email is different. In contrast the mailto link uses the return address of the subscriber's own email client, not that this method is not without its own problems.

Consider the computing experience and background of your typical visitor to determine which method may be most suitable for your audience.

See Also

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