Today I start a new job writing Open Source marketing tools for phpList – the email newsletter sending app. Like MailChimp and SendGrid, phpList lets users design, write, send, and track emails to large numbers of people from a simple web interface.
Specifically, I’ll be working on a new API to allow other apps to connect to phpList securely and handle subscribers and newsletters, and send mails. Once that’s done, I’ll be implementing the API in new software, but we’re saving those details for later. Suffice to say that managing newsletters using phpList should become increasingly convenient and accessible over the next two months. Stay tuned.
“What is email / newsletter marketing anyway?” you may be asking yourself. “What does Open Source have to do with it?”. Email marketing remains the most effective form of digital marketing, and is a central component of any promotional campaign. That makes it critical to all forms of business, especially when users have actively sought newletter membership. When campaigning for digital rights at FSFE, GnuPG, LibreOffice, and others, I’ve used such tools to spread the word about political developments and engagement opportunities. Hundreds signed up to receive news about the GPG crowdfunding campaign in winter 2013, for example, allowing me to notify them of new rewards and opportunities as the campaign progressed.
The software that performs these functions must be reliable and effective. Furthermore it must be trustworthy, which makes the availability of strong Open Source contenders in this field particularly important. Mailing list managers, as the apps are sometimes called, typically manage hundreds of thousands of email addresses, sometimes with other identifying information as well. This data is valuable – first and foremost to the people it identifies. Information must be stored securely, yet remain transparent and accessible to newsletter subscribers (allowing them to update details or opt-out, for example).
For more than a decade phpList has provided a competitive solution in an Open Source package, allowing organisations to host their own email campaigns and keep their user’s data local. I’ve used it since 2008, and trained companies I’ve worked for to use it too. Having dipped into the codebase in June last year at the API sprint event, I’m grateful to finally have the opportunity to work more consistently on the project and functionality. Let’s say it’s an itch I’ve had for quite some time.