[Mailman-Users] Can Mailman be installed on a free python webhost?

Stephen J. Turnbull stephen at xemacs.org
Mon Dec 2 04:11:29 CET 2013

R. Sheng-Chieh Cheng writes:

Everything Mark says is true and authoritative.  If something I say
seems to conflict with Mark, either you don't understand (feel free to
ask!) or Mark's right and I'm wrong.  Like all rules, there are
exceptions -- but I'm not aware of any.<wink/>

 > But I question whether I could install Mailman since the
 > installation instruction says
 >  1) add mailman to /etc/passwd
 >  2) add mailman to /etc/group

You'd have to ask your host if you can do this.  I think your best bet
would be to shop around for hosts that already provide Mailman.
Second line of attack would be to ask for the necessary privileges or
for the host admin to perform the operations for you (unlikely, since
the host is free).

However, as Mark says, there are more important difficulties if you
don't have "root".  Specifically, the mail system is one of the most
sensitive components of an Internet host, and you need to change its
routing tables to give Mailman a routable mail address.  It's possible
to work around this, but it would require setting up a "personal"
account for each Mailman service (post, subscribe, owner, and several
more) that needs a mailbox, which is messy and insecure.  If I were a
web host I would only allow those I would trust with direct access to
the mail system to set up any mailing list.

 >  3) install on /usr/local/mailman

Installing under /usr/local is just the most common way to do this.
The advantage is that an experienced admin who takes over for you can
find Mailman's "stuff" can look in /usr/lib/mailman and
/var/lib/mailman first, and/or the /usr/local equivalents.

Mailman doesn't require it, an admin with the needed privilege could
put it in /home/mailman, or anybody can put it in ~/services/Mailman,
or whatever.  However, putting it under a real user's home directory
is relatively insecure unless that user is quite skilled in security
*and* consistently applies those skills to her account.

 > I doubt a free webhost would let me do this.
 > Has anyone added Mailman to a free webhost? If so, which one?
 > And what workaround used?
 > If positive, can I assume that I don't need to know python -
 > just use ./configure & make install .

I am confused.  I believe there are free webhosting services that
offer Mailman as one of their services.[1]  If you're not interested
in programming Python, maybe you could use one of those.

 > If negative, can you suggest another python, PHP, and/or Perl
 > (script) discussion mailing list that I could load unto a free
 > webhost's website?

All reasonably featureful mailing list managers have similar
requirements with respect to mailboxes and access to the mail system's
routing function.  It is those requirements that imply the existence
of the Mailman user and group, and you're not going to find it easy to
work around them.

If you really need to restrict yourself to the "web" services of the
host, I'm afraid you probably have to give up on having a featureful
mailing list manager, and should consider using a web forum instead.

I don't have any recommendations there (I'm an old fogey who detests
web forums in my own daily life, though I'm not so conservative I
can't recognize that others might find them useful<wink/>).

[1]  There are certainly software development hosts that do
SourceForge and GNU Savannah immediately come to mind.  Unless your
project develops open source software you probably wouldn't be allowed
to use those hosts, but there are probably others that would host your

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