The reasons why mailing lists have been phased out are various:
- spam volume across the whole set of mailing lists
- low availability of moderators in the community
- lack of modern moderation tools
- lack of community management and involvement
- dwindling legitimate traffic
- high barrier of entry for newcomers
The long and short of it is that any large mailing list set up is virtually indistinguishable from a spam service, unless you spend a lot of time and effort in trying to keep up and jump through whatever new hoops the few remaining service providers decided to implement. Maintaining a mail server, and a mailing list service, is not in any way, shape, or form “free”, and it gets increasingly less free every year. GNOME outgoing email has been marked as spam and we had to ask to be placed in an allow list various times. GNOME, incidentally, isn’t the only umbrella project that has had issues with mailing lists; freedesktop.org has had even worse problems, with mail being blackholed various times.
In practice, unless we started asking people to go through the GNOME mail server in order to send email that can be verified against anti-spam measures, it’s hard to justify a full mailing list hosting service—especially considering the average signal-to-noise ratio.
On top of that, given the fact that GNOME is still using mailman2, an unmaintained platform which depends on an end-of-lifed Python2, it’s getting harder every year to ensure that the system is running securely. Any change to a different mailing list service is basically equivalent to moving to a new and different platform.
I am absolutely sure that the people on the Evolution mailing list, as users of a mail client, are much more comfortable with email than with any other service. The people on the Evolution mailing lists are a minority, though, and to be quite frank, you’re benefiting from a service provided to you for free.
The GNOME project has been migrating towards Discourse since the trial we ran with the migration of the GTK mailing lists, in February 2019. In September 2020, after more than a year of experience, we started the process of migrating all mailing lists. It’s been three years and a half, a very long migration by any metric.
I understand and empathise with the feeling, but I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that not caring about the project that is providing you a service for free is not a great excuse? The GNOME project has multiple venues of centralised communication, to avoid having to go around hunting down people that have “no particular interest”. It’s expected that people participate in those venues.
Yes: Discourse is not a good mailing list software. It’s predicated on the idea that you can use email to interact with it, but it’s not the main interaction model. Tools like moderation and community management are based on interacting through the web UI. Can Discourse be fixed? Of course: it’s software, it can do anything. Plus, it’s open source software, so it can be fixed by anybody. If people are willing to work on it, I’m sure it’s going to improve that particular side, and maybe it’ll be a good replacement for mailman. Are GNOME admins going to do that? No, I don’t think they will.
You’re entirely free to move the Evolution mailing lists to some other service, if you feel that mailing lists are better for user support; the “evolution” tag on Discourse will still be here, in case people want to ask or answer questions. Of course, it’d be better not to split the pool of responders, or add more places to ask questions, but if people are more comfortable with a mailing list then it’s up to you to manage one.