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Now as dead as eight tracks, the gopher protocol (RFC 1436) was a turning point on the internet, a forerunner to the WorldWideWeb in many ways. Gopher offered a "hypertree" of content. The information on gopher was arranged in a hierarchy of directories and entries. Directories could be hyperlinks (hence the hypertree). The entries were flat text. Plain ASCII text was a limiting standard, but in many ways the limits were good. When style is almost nonexistant, substance is the only thing left. Gopher tended toward very content-oriented sites like TheEnglishServer? and the Wiretap archive. The WikiWikiWeb is similarly helped (and hindered) by its restrictions of ContentOverForm. Some who pine for the good ol' days of content have written the [Gopher Manifesto], that seeks to replace the WorldWideWeb with gopher.

A paper [(McCahill, 1994)] on the seminal [TurboGopher VR], a 3D visualization of gopherspace akin to the tank game Spectre, included the following bit of history:

Since its introduction in June, 1991 Gopher has become quite popular. In December 1993, there were over 4800 gopher servers accessible on the Internet, and well over 1.5 million items accessible in Gopherspace. By March 1994 there were 6700 Gopher servers accessible over the Internet. Gopher traffic across the NSFnet backbone has been increasing at an average rate of 20% a month during the last year, and Gopher's share of the total NSFnet traffic has increased to about 3.5%. There are now at least 4 different Macintosh Gopher clients, 5 Windows clients, 4 clients for Unix/X-windows, 2 Amiga clients, a VMS client, and even Gopher clients for MVS and VM/CMS.

Searching gopher took two tacts. Veronica would search the whole gopher space while Jughead would search a local server. They were both named after Archie, the FileTransferProtocol? search system. [All are characters from the Archie pulp comic book series.]

A couple still living at the time of writing gopher servers can be found at

gopher://gopher.archive.merit.edu:7055/11/celia-gopher (you can download files here)

Dead as of 2004:

gopher://gopher.tc.umn.edu/ (creaters of the protocol)
gopher://wiretap.area.com/ (an early e-text repository)

Expect MSIE to crash a lot while using gopher, although rumour has it that they removed gopher from IE6 (well, I can't get to them with it).

The most important Gopher site is TheWELLGopher.

CategoryWebTechnology (well, pre-web)

I always wanted to provide a gopher interface for MeatballWiki. If someone builds one, I'll buy them a beer. -- SunirShah

It may be beneficial to move MeatballWiki entirely to Gopher to escape TheSeptemberThatNeverEnded in wikidom, as part of a HiddenCommunity?. -- SunirShah


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