A subject-based, menu-driven guide to finding and retrieving directories of information on the Internet.
Gopher was developed at the University of Minnesota to help organize files on the Internet. It was named after the school’s football mascot. The Gopher protocol was developed in 1991 and originally offered as an alternative to the very new World Wide Web. It saw quick adoption, particularly in higher education, where it provided a simple way to set up and manage Campus-Wide Information Systems.
Despite its early success and claims that it was faster than other Web services, Gopher was quickly supplanted by the World Wide Web and HTTP protocol. Several factors contributed to its short-lived success, including the rise of web browsers, which were able to duplicate much of the functionality Gopher provided, and the rise of HTTP, which provided more freedom to developers and less-rigid navigation for Web users. To make matters worse, the University of Minnesota decided to charge licensing fees to implement a Gopher server, prompting many users to make to move to the open-source technology of the Web.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you find information using Gopher?
Gopher works similar to a library, where information is stored by common subjects or interest areas. Users are given a menu of these and can browse through them to find available information. Since Gopher was primarily used to search for text documents, it was often accessed using a text-based DOS environment or a terminal system, though some clients now support graphical menus.
Is Gopher still in use?
There is a small but dedicated community of Gopher users. As of 2014, there were 144 Gopher servers indexed by Veronica. While many web browsers do not support Gopher by default, most have plugins available to enable support. Likewise, Gopher clients are available for most desktop operating systems, as well as smartphones running both Android and iOS.
Is software for Gopher still being created and maintained?
Even though Gopher is not widely used, there are still a number of applications available for Gopher servers. This is both because Gopher continues to have devoted users and because the Gopher protocol is simple to implement, so creating and maintaining applications for it is a fairly easy endeavor. Though many of these packages have not been updated in a number of years, others continue to be actively maintained.