GNU Mailman was invented by John Viega sometime before 1997, or so is indicated by the earliest known archived message on the subject. The earliest hit for ``viega mailman'' in Google groups is about the Dave Matthews band mailing list that John was running [Viega97].
At the time, python.org [Python.Org] was running a hacked version of Majordomo for all its special interest group (SIG) mailing lists, but this had two problems: first, the site was becoming unmaintainable as the administrators tried to customize new features into Majordomo, and second, it just wouldn't do to run Python's mailing lists on a Perl-based list server.
When Mailman was first released, python.org quickly adopted it and has been using it ever since. Mailman 2.0 marked a milestone in its development, as version 2.0.13 is quite stable, and deployed at thousands of sites. It runs everything from small special interest group lists to huge announcement lists, at sites ranging from the commercial (RedHat, SourceForge, Apple, Dell, SAP, and Zope Corporation), to the hacker community (XEmacs, Samba, Gnome, KDE, Exim, and of course Python), to numerous educational organizations and non-profits. There are lots of hosting facilities providing Mailman services, and increasingly, quite a few international organizations.
One of the reasons for the increased interest from the non-English speaking world is that Mailman 2.1, which had been in development for about two years, is fully internationalized. Internationalization is the process of preparing an application for use in multiple locales. Localization is the process of specializing the application for a specific locale. For example, during internationalization, all end-user displayable text in the Mailman 2.1 source code was specially marked as requiring translation. Mailman 2.1.1 (the latest available patch release at the time of writing), has been localized to almost 20 natural languages.
While Mailman 2.1 may appear to be only a minor revision over 2.0.13, it really represents quite an extensive rewrite. It could easily have been argued that this version should be called Mailman 3.0. Before describing the details of the internationalization work, a brief overview of Mailman is provided, including a quick tour of some of the other important features in the 2.1 release.