The End of Gmane?

In 2002, I grew annoyed with not finding the obscure technical information I was looking for, so I started Gmane, the mailing list archive. All technical discussion took place on mailing lists those days, and archiving those were, at best, spotty and with horrible web interfaces.

The past few weeks, the Gmane machines (and more importantly, the company I work for, who are graciously hosting the servers) have been the target of a number of distributed denial of service attacks. Our upstream have been good about helping us filter out the DDoS traffic, but it’s meant serious downtime where we’ve been completely off the Internet.

Of course, there are ways to try to mitigate all this: I’m moving the Gmane servers off of my employer’s net, and I’m putting Cloudflare in front of the Gmane web servers.

But I ask myself: Is this fun any more?

Running a mailing list archive means, of course, that people want stuff removed from the archive, so I’ve apparently been sued in India (along with Google and Yahoo) (and I’m never going there: I might be sentenced. I don’t know). And I’m the Internet Help Desk, which is nice, but confusing. And all the threats of “legal action” are, well, something.

And now the DDoS stuff, which I have no idea why is happening, but I can only assume that somebody is angry about something.

Probably me being a wise ass.

So… it’s been 14 years… I’m old now. I almost threw up earlier tonight because I’m so stressed about the situation. I should retire and read comic books and watch films. Oh, and the day job. Work, work, work. Oh, and Gnus.

I’m thinking about ending Gmane, at least as a web site. Perhaps continue running the SMTP-to-NNTP bridge? Perhaps not? I don’t want to make 20-30K mailing lists start having bouncing addresses, but I could just funnel all incoming mail to /dev/null, I guess…

The nice thing about a mailing list archive (with NNTP and HTTP interfaces) is that it enables software maintainers to say (whenever somebody suggests using Spiffy Collaboration Tool of the Month instead of yucky mailing lists) is “well, just read the stuff on Gmane, then”. I feel like I’m letting down a generation here. And despite what I rambled about in that paragraph up there, I’ve had many fun interactions with people because of Gmane. And lots and lots and lots of appreciative feedback over the years.

*sigh*

But there’s The Mail Archive. Those guys are doing a good job. If The Mail Archive had been as good in 2002 as it is now, I probably wouldn’t have started Gmane.

I’m open to ideas here. If somebody else wants to take over the concept, I can FedEx you a disk containing the archive (as an NNTP spool). I’ve written a lot of software for Gmane, but it’s all quite site specific and un-documented. And the web interface was written in, like, 2004, so it’s way way way un-Web 2.0-ey and shiny. You’re probably better off implementing this stuff from scratch.

Oh, and along with the spool you’ll get the gmane.conf file which has the mailing list->NNTP mapping.

I can’t really recommend the job, though. It sucks.

[Update: See this comment.]

127 thoughts on “The End of Gmane?”

  1. FWIW, I’ve only really interested in the mail-to-news gateway. And very much in it. Would the burden become acceptable if only this survived?

  2. Please, please don’t shut down. GMane. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the mail archive that “just works”. The thread view in the frame-based UI is just nice, because even if I wasn’t subscribed to a list in the past I can read a thread easily. And not just in the heavily broken Mailman web views most MLs still show. I agree that a rewrite of the frame UI with HTML5 might be nice, but I don’t really care. This works.

    If you need help, maybe ask for that? Like „would somebody be interested in co-hosting GMane?“ or „can somebody do a rewrite of the UI“, etc. If you need donations to keep the service up, ask for them more openly.

    In conclusion I really hope GMane stays up or at this point: comes back up again.

  3. This is really sad. Even though gmane is not web-2.0 it is good at what is important: being fast. It is miles ahead of the stuff companies like Microsoft put out.

    Perhaps it could be made to work as a team effort? That way you wouldn’t have to deal with all the mail and the threats on your own.

  4. Gmane is better than the alternative websites thanks to the threaded view.
    And the possibility to download mbox is a killer feature as well. With that it’s possible to just reply to messages even when subscribing after the fact.

    Granted, the whole gmane website could be improved a little bit by switching from web 1.0 + iframes to web 2.0.
    But the alternatives are uglier web 1.0 only websites.

    Google Groups could be the best of the alternatives, but it’s still not as good as gmane for the UI, and has quite inferior download (have to download each email).

  5. This is sad to read 😦 gmane has been my copilot for years, the UI is perfect, the archive has all the ML I’m interested in.

    Thanks for all the years giving this service and if your health is being affected by this, then you certainly know what to do, no one can blame you.

    PS: These days people don’t appreciate volunteering work, they demand as if you were Google.

  6. I love gmane! And I think the UI is flipping awesome. None of that fancy unnecessary stuff, just the text ma’am!

  7. I, for one, will miss Gmane if it’s gone. 😦

    Gnus on Gmane groups is how I manage to keep track of a load of mailing lists.

    This means that what I would miss most, and what Mail Archive and friends won’t supply, is the NNTP gateway. I would also miss Gnus search on Gmane if it’s gone.

    I won’t be happy if the web interface disappears, but it won’t affect my daily workflow in the same way as if the NNTP interface disappears.

    (I hope you will give this a good nights sleep before you decide, and I hope it will all seem a little less dark when you wake…?)

  8. If it helps, I am willing to pay for a subscription. Gmane is a valuable service and I hope that a new home can be found if you no longer want to maintain it. Thank you for providing such an amazing service for free all this time.

  9. The end of Gmane would be sad but I can’t blame you at all for feeling this way. Instead I would like to thank you and celebrate your years of service. You have made many people’s lives easier and better. Thank you so much.

  10. How much storage and what kind of hardware specs are you using? Gmane is a really good resource. I’m tentatively interested in hosting it.

  11. Noticed today that gmane.org was down, and then read this 😦

    I have had loads of help of Gmane over the years easily finding threads on MLs such as net-dev and others.

    I operate an ISP as a side business and I would love to give back to the community by operating mirrors, donating hosting services, etc. for you, if needed. Drop me an e-mail if you’d like… =)

  12. Might archive.org be interested in helping? I doubt it, but might be an interesting project.

  13. I have been heavily dependent on gmane smtp/nntp gateway for many years. This is a tremendous community service. Think of all the wasted space and bandwidth eliminated by viewing mailing lists via nntp interface! And it’s far more efficient use of our time to browse via nntp instead of e.g., gmail.

    1. I’ve found answers to questions in gmane web archives many times over the years (so, thanks), but I didn’t even know you ran a smtp/nntp gateway. Neat.

  14. Hi,

    I would be very sorry to see Gmane go. It is a very useful service, and I *like* the clear and well-structured HTML interface – nothing fancy, nothing sliding, blinking, soft-scrolling at me, just presenting useful information in a clear way.

    We’re over at OpenVPN use gmane URLs in our git repo to document why changes went in (“there is the patch, and the discussion that came with it”) so it’s valuable for open source transparency.

    I understand the feeling of “why am I doing this? since 10+ years?” (been building Internet infrastructure for 23 years now…) but I hope it will be possible to support you in some way so the burden is easier – like monetary donations, or … dunno. (I can’t offer *time*, as that is all sunk in non-paid projects on my side already…)

  15. On behalf of all the people who use gmane to access the mailing lists that I manage, I just wanted to say thank you for the hard work you have put in over the years, regardless of your decision (and if the thought of stopping makes you feel happier/better, then please do stop for your own well-being).

  16. Thank you for running Gmane, it’s much appreciated. I can understand how you feel and wish you all the best, which ever way you decide to go from here.

  17. please don’t shut it down. I would be a much worse engineer if it wouldn’t be for Gmane. It is sad enough that so much discussion happens behind walled gardens these days. If Gmane goes, it would be so sad.

  18. Thanks for Gmane, it is awesome and an amazing amount of (mostly) thankless work. DDOS is just random idiot most likely. If you choose to shut down I will be very sad but I will always wear the T shirt and dream about the hidden, civilized parts of the net.

  19. Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! Thanks for the 1,000s of hours you have donated to all of us who have benefitted from your hard work.

    I heard a podcast a year or so ago by someone at archive.org who talked about archiving large websites and hosting them and how they don’t want sites to just drop off the internet. gmane is definitely one of those websites.

  20. When I hose up a system, I can jump onto gmane via the web
    and get help from numerous help/user groups. All that is needed is a web browser, net access and the main url (in memory). Irreplacable, as it’s been a crutch for me for a decade now….

    A donation if a new team/organization materializes. Perhaps the best solution is to get gmane back online and then let several sites build small clusters (mesos or openstack) and put a gmane clone up. That way DDos attacks will have a far tougher time defeating the resoure, as others upstream ISP can help filter the DDos and users can have multiple sites to access… Drop me a message, should you need help on the distributed setup.

    James

  21. This is really sad. 😦 Gmane is one of the services I’ve used nearly every day to read mails from high-traffic lists like linux-kernel and lists I’m not subscribed to. The extent of the archive is also phenomenal, it has helped me out many times when I need to read some old threads. The user interface is fast and keyboard friendly, and a km above the other mail archives when it comes to usability.

    I’ve in fact been thinking now and then about this, fearing the day Gmane no longer exists. It is a heritage, in the spirit of archive.org.

    I really hope Gmane will continue to exist, and I’ll gladly pay a monthly subscription to keep it running. I’m sure Gmane is valuable enough that a lot of people or organisations will pay a subscription fee to cover the hosting expenses and maybe cover payments to the sysadmin.

    Thanks for all you’ve done, Lars, and hopefully I don’t have to say “thanks for all the fish” not quite yet.

    Stor og takknemlig hilsen,
    Øyvind

  22. I beg you not to end the Gmane web UI. Gmane is absolutely the best web archive for mailing lists. Nothing comes close. I use Gmane every day,

    It has unique features that *matter*. Being “web 1.0” and using frames is one of them. Those are a *bonus*. Please read the comments on LWN as well: http://lwn.net/Articles/695695/

    Can you perhaps turn this question into one of funding?

    I want to emphasize that the “site specific and un-documented” code you wrote, and “the web interface” from “like, 2004” make Gmane Gmane. Those things make Gmane second to none.

    Some mailing lists have only been archived by Gmane.

    Gmane is irreplaceable.

  23. Lars, I’m Jason Scott with the Internet Archive. I’d like to talk to you about getting a copy of the site and archives on hard drive for permanent archival storage, regardless of the outcome of this phase of your excellent work with the site. I can be reached at jscott@archive.org or through twitter at @textfiles.

  24. I’ve had a couple of hours sleep and managed to eat something, so I’m not quite as despondent as when I wrote the stuff above. And thanks for all the nice comments and feedback, it’s really heartening.

    I’ve been talking to ISPs and stuff today, and I’m moving the MTA and the NNTP server to new hosting (and hardware) this weekend. Expect some downtime, but no mail should be lost.

    I will not be taking the web servers up again. I’m just too fed up with all that stuff. However, it would be a real shame if all the gazillions of Gmane links out there stopped working. So here’s what I hope somebody could make happen:

    I hand over the gmane.org domain to you. You point the MX and the “news” A to my server.

    You set up a new web based service based on the Gmane spool, which I will send to you on a disk. (It’s about 2TB, and full of itsy bitsy files.) You’ll also get a feed with new email. You create the web interface the way you like: I think that’s a potentially fun and rewarding project for somebody interested in stuff like that.

    All previous permalink.gmane.org (etc.) links continue to work as before, but they’ll look new and spiffy in your new and spiffy web interface. (And you can start small and simple and then expand into awesomeness later. A short downtime would be better than a long downtime.)

    You handle any takedown requests from the public and spam detection and stuff.

    It would perhaps be preferable if a group of people, or an organisation, were to run this thing, so that it could be a stable resource…

    If nobody starts DDoS-ing the MTA or the NNTP server, I could see this being something that could run for many years to come, because it would relieve me of most of the things about Gmane that’s I’m way beyond fed up with.

    Any takers? 🙂 (Or any other ideas…) Send me an email.

    1. Might you consider posting the current Gmane source code to somewhere like GitHub, and maybe post a subset of the data somewhere? That would let a new set of people start the task of improving/re-building straight away, instead of leaving it all to one individual. It would also mean we wouldn’t have to start entirely from scratch!

    2. Lars, I’m somewhat interested and would like to chat, but can’t find your e-mail anywhere (on your “about” page or github)? Maybe that’s on purpose because of all the people who think you are the Internet help desk? I put my e-mail address in the form for this comment — feel free to contact me.

    3. (trying to post this message again)

      Hi Lars, I’m somewhat interested, but don’t see your e-mail address anywhere? I put my e-mail address in the form for this comment.

    4. Lars, I would appreciate if the NNTP – SMTP bridge will continue to run. If a donation will help you anyway please let me know.

    5. Hey,
      We are ab german non-profit organization. At first great work!

      We are willing, if you too, to host the webapp at our infrastructure and manage take down notices. Why? Because we already have fight some (much) small cases with courts caused by running high traffic Tor nodes and running an 24/7 NOC/Abuse Team.

      We are happy to announce this, because we use your service too and we love it!

      Best,
      Max

    6. Thank you for all your work on this wonderful service to the free software and free knowledge community and for caring about preserving it. (I hear you’re also working with Internet Archive, which is great.) I’m confident an entity in a safe jurisdiction can be found to provide as legal shield for the web server.

  25. Keeping the NNTP server up would really be appreciated!
    I read all my mailing lists (and a few rss feeds) in mutt (via NNTP).
    It would be annoying if I had to manually subscribe to all of the individually.

    Thanks for all your work over the years.

  26. If the NNTP gateway goes down, I’ll probably have to stop using mailing lists altogether (at least writing to them). There’s just no way I can handle the flood of mail in my inbox. Thank you for providing this invaluable service! I hope it will remain available.

    I probably would not miss the web part too much if that one went away, NNTP is the really interesting part.

  27. Hi Lars, just a word to thank you for the superb service you have created and given to so many people over the years. Enjoy your retirement 🙂

  28. Thanks SO much for all your work. Gmane has made my life a lot easier. I see two distinct values in Gmane
    1) the physical archive of just so many mailing lists; I understand that it totally does not scale and a single person is never going to be able to properly cope with all the legal/takedown crap
    2) the COOL threaded web interface with permanent URLs

    Wouldn’t it work if you separated these two? Mailing list admins (of live mailing lists) could keep an archive themselves. And you just cache them (be it over NNTP, rsync of a Maildir, whatever). For dead lists or lists with operators unwilling to cooperate, a volunteer would be required to provide the physical archive.
    If nobody cares about a mailinglist, you just drop it.

    And you get to keep the domain, the precious permalink URLs and the excellent threaded UI – and protect it from whoever wants to Web-2.0-ize it 🙂

    1. I second this. Alongside giving your current data out to someone else, it would be great if the Internet Archive got a copy of it, I’m sure they would love to make an interface for it, even if it were more static.

  29. I don’t how this will end up but I want to thank you. You made my life easier. A lot.

    I’m reading a lot of mailing lists and I was relived of polishing my own mailserver to correctly accept them all and drop spam. I was also fed up with Google, which created a decent mail server that easily becomes a trash can when you start to use it seriously.

    I’m reading a lot of news and I switched to Gwene when Google RSS Reader was closed. This saved me a lot of traffic for viewing site headers footers and other junk.

    When I bought a phone I created myself a IMAP server and stuffed all relevant groups there so I can read them anytime anywhere – rss, mailing lists, anything.

    Right now all of this takes just a little swing of a finger to go on. I don’t want to imagine my life after Gmane dawn: cleaning spam and fixing rss-readers.

    I’m ready to pay subscription if this will make Gmane nntp/Gwene work. I think I can even try to become a local mirror to ease your load.

    And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There would be people like me willing to pay subscription, people like me willing to donate bandwidth/storage. People not like me ready to provide other help as lawyers. And there are surely a lot of people out there thankful to “those guys behind Gmane” that didn’t ever manage to reach this blog.

  30. Hi Lars, as many have said the zillion of gmane users can’t thank you enough for all the great service you have done. I hope you can hold on until somebody else can take care of it.

    Developing a new web service can be a daunting task; may I suggest a different interim solution?

    You could keep the gmane “web service” running for now, but provide rsync-only access to a handful of interested people in hosting it, which should take care of quite a few issues you’ve been facing lately: namely DOS and takedown requests.

    Regarding a transfer of the gmane.org domain, I know a open source-friendly organization that could be interested on hosting it (contacting them right now). Let us know how could we be of help.

  31. Gmane is a very valuable resource, thank you for your efforts and precious time that you devoted to the community.

    I suggest you contact the good folks at the Internet Archive, sounds like a good fit for their mission.

  32. Thank you for running gmane! It’s truly sad to read that blog post since I think that gmane is the by far best ML service out there! The threaded view has been helpful so many times and I regularly reference old discussions as gmane links in kernel commit messages. It’s such an awesome service! I hope you’ll still change your mind .. Thanks for all the hard work!

  33. I consider the archive the most important part personally, preserving and making available these valuable discussions that may out-survive the source lists. Yes, definitely, contact the Internet Archive and see if they’d be willing to host this / keep the archives.

  34. The really valuable service you provide to me is the mailing-list-to-nntp gateway. I can choose what news reader to use, and I choose one that has the interface I like. (it happens to be Pan, by the way).

    Others use what they like.

    The nntp gateway does let me access the archive, as far a can see.

    I don’t use the web interface.

    If the web were as flexible as my ability to choose a newsreader, that would truly be delightful, but the trend in web services seems to be to do all the layout from the server and give no meaningful options to the user ( who might well have a monochrome screen or be colourblind in various interesting and frustrating ways).

    Every time someone starts a new mailing list of any importance, I always advise them to have it mirrored on gmane. Even some google groups are more readable via gmane.

    It’s an important service and ought to continue, somehow, whether managed by you, by the internet archive, a society of brave volunteers, or some kind of combination of these.

    And as for existing source code vs starting over … Sometimes the existing source code is an invaluable guide when writing a new one from scratch. It tells you what the existing system does, and the new author can decide what to keep, what to replace, and what to discard. But he does get to make that choice, instead of just doing it by mistake.

    If I were to write new gmane software, I’d probably do it in OCaml. But that’s just me, I guess.

    — hendrik

  35. Wow. I just read about this, and first of all, I want to thank you Lars for all the great work on Gmane over the years (and Gnus — you know I’m an old emacser :). Gmane is the perfect companion to Mailman IMHO, and I can’t tell you how many mailing lists I interact with over NNTP/Gnus. I’ll contact you separate once I get a chance, but one of the things we’ve long discussed in the Mailman community was building in NNTP (and possibly IMAP) right into Mailman 3. I think it would not be too hard to do for someone with Python 3 and protocol knowledge… plus time! If anybody reading this wants to help, please get in touch with us on mailman-developers at python dot org. I’m very glad that at least the NNTP-SMTP bridge will stay alive, and I will have to talk with our HyperKitty developers (MM3’s new web archiver built in Django) to see if there’s any way it could host the Gmane web ui.

  36. Lars, thanks so much for all the work you’ve put into Gmane (and as a fellow long time emacser, Gnus 🙂 over the years. Gmane is IMHO an indispensable companion to GNU Mailman. We’ve long discussed how to make NNTP (and even IMAP) a built-in way of accessing Mailman archives, and with Mailman 3 I think it would be very doable for someone with Python and protocol knowledge, and time! I also want to contact the HyperKitty developers (MM3’s new web archiver) to see if it could import the Gmane archives. It might make for a nice new web ui for Gmane as well. Anybody wanting to help, please contact us at mailman-developers at python dot org.

  37. If you don’t find anyone able to take over GMane, MAYBE I can do it.
    I’m an AIX systems engineer for a hospital system.
    I run a VPS but it might not be big enough for gmane.

    Also built this as a joke http://dosnetsynth.com/index.html

    GMane is really, really useful.

    It is sad to see it go.

    Under what obligation are you under to remove anything from Gmane
    unless it is DMCA?

    You can reach me at d y l a n e t a f t @g m a i l . c o m or @df00z on twitter.

  38. My initial reaction was sadness. I just turned 30, but feel like gmane has been a part of my life forever. Its been how I communicate and keep current for my whole career.

    When I read almost throwing up at the prospect though, that’s moot. Your health (mental, physical) is absolutely is the most important thing. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us, but we all want what’s best for you. Please take care of yourself, and only then consider the future of gmane.

    1. That is true: I would be a little sad to loose Gmane, but for me, much worst to know that Lars is having bad times with it!

  39. As a fan of the work you’ve done back to Eyesore days (the database, not the domain ;), and as a fellow open-source maintainer, I feel your pain. Thank you so much for all the work you’ve put into Gmane. I had no idea it was all just one person (and that it was you!), and I have no idea how many times Gmane has saved my ass over the years. Thank you, and take care of yourself.

  40. As a private user (following one list currently), I’d also like to say thank you very much. I used the threaded web interface (i.e. thread view at the top and message at the bottom) and thus it would be very nice if a solution was found to keep that one up, too. As far as “modernization” goes – maybe move on to HTML5 and get rid of frames as the technical underpinning, but *please* don’t introduce jumping, resizing header menus or similar annoying stuff. Just keep it simple and working, including keyboard navigation if possible. Maybe you could introduce optional vertical splitting though (thread view left – maybe shorten the date –, message right) to accommodate wide screens.

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