An email program socialists should love

In my column last week I mentioned an email program called Pegasus Mail. As you may recall, I pointed out that it’s an alternative to Microsoft Outlook Express. As everyone now knows, Microsoft’s programs are the main means of distributing lethal computer viruses through the Internet.
Pegasus Mail should interest socialists for a few reasons.

First of all, it is absolutely free of charge. Unlike, say, Eudora, which shows advertising, Pegasus Mail is completely commercial-free as well.
Second, it is not the product of some giant corporation like Microsoft, which makes Outlook Express, or Qualcomm, which makes Eudora. Pegasus Mail was written by one guy — David Harris, who lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Harris first wrote Pegasus Mail back in 1989 when he realised that the university he was employed by needed an email program. People liked what he wrote, it got passed around, and over time became one of the most popular pieces of software ever written.
He says of Pegasus Mail that “it dates from the time when the Internet was a community rather than just a highway — when people helped each other without worrying too much about who was going to pay for it.”
Harris doesn’t appear to have made any money from this. He seems prepared to sell you a manual for the program, if you want, but that’s hardly the kind of aggressive marketing one is used to these days.
But Harris has apparently sold enough copies of the manuals to keep himself going, and has devoted the last 18 months to rewriting his software from scratch.
Over those last few months, Harris has written tens of thousands of lines of code, made some 2,500 changes to the previous version, and in early November this year announced the long-delayed release of a much improved version of the software, Pegasus Mail version 4.
It many ways, it is a superior program to the ones produced by the giant, U.S.-based corporations with their teams of hundreds of programmers.
Harris claims to have invented filtering for email and Pegasus Mail still has a very powerful mechanism for sorting out junk mail. In fact it’s so powerful that you can easily use Pegasus Mail to run electronic mailing lists to which people can subscribe by sending a command (like ‘subscribe’ in the subject line).
While corporations like Microsoft and Netscape/AOL employ teams of testers and quality control experts, Harris relies on a network of volunteer testers who are given pre-release (beta) versions of the software.
All of this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom about how software works, or how the computer industry works.
Bigger is not necessarily better. Software you pay for is not always better than software that is given away for free.
People are sometimes prepared to devote many hours of their time in a labour of love to create a computer program that is a proudly-crafted piece of work — rather than a buggy, assembly-line produced piece of “bloatware”, as some of Microsoft’s programs have been labelled.
According to the proponents of free market capitalism, idealists like David Harris should not even exist. They should not be writing things like this: “Giving away Pegasus Mail seemed to be a means by which I could try to make communication more accessible to a much wider range of people who needed it.”
If the capitalist view of the way things worked was right, Pegasus Mail should never have been created. It should never have succeeded when pitted against products produced by corporate giants.
But it did.
For a decade now, Pegasus Mail has been the email program of choice for millions of Internet users.
Today, with the commercialisation of the web, dominated by Microsoft and AOL, the act of downloading and using Pegasus Mail is almost an act of defiance, of rebellion.
From my point of view, it’s not only the best email program available today — it’s the one all socialists should use, and promote.
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More details about Pegasus Mail can be found at
There are two Usenet groups which discuss Pegasus Mail and both are quite lively. They can be accessed through Google Groups, here:

1 Comment on "An email program socialists should love"

  1. ….it’s the one all socialists should use, and promote…..
    You’re an idiot.

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