Our Story: $3,000 and a Laptop

Top Gun was in theaters. Madonna was on the radio. Cheers was on television. It was 1986. The Internet was in its infancy. The World Wide Web would not be invented for another three years, but the original social media had already emerged in LISTSERV®.

Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas created LISTSERV as a weekend project while he was a college student in Paris in 1986. This original idea formed the basis for social media as we know it today. Thomas was studying electrical engineering but was more fascinated with the world of IT than with his own studies.

Up until this point, email was only available to those with access to the Internet or BITNET, which was mostly college students and government workers. Email lists existed but were not automated. To be added to a list, the person managing the list had to do it manually, and managing lists became slower and more time-consuming as the number of subscribers grew.

Thomas set out to automate this process. What was just a weekend project resulted in the creation of LISTSERV. Little did he know that it would take over the rest of his life.

I didn't realize what social media would be, or what LISTSERV would be. I just created a way for people to network through the Internet.

Eric Thomas –┬áL-Soft

Within two months, 20 universities had started using the program, and by the mid-90s, there were more than 10 million users.

Eric Thomas

In 1994, Thomas founded L-Soft in the United States with just $3,000 and a laptop, making him one of the first entrepreneurs to turn a networking platform into a business. It would be another 10 years before Facebook would be created.

Social media is hard to define because it is continuously evolving. But the fundamental human goals of networking and interacting have remained the same. LISTSERV was the first to provide an email forum for like-minded people from all over the world to share, discover and connect. Social media was at the core of the creation of LISTSERV and is a part of its future.

As the company celebrates 35 years of LISTSERV, Thomas is still at the helm of L-Soft, updating the software with new and improved features as technological innovations occur. Thomas, along with the members of L-Soft's team, continue to dedicate themselves to helping organizations from dozens of industries reap the benefits that email communication through LISTSERV has to offer. Though the platforms of social media tend to change, one thing has remained the same: LISTSERV.