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What Happened To "Gopher Protocol"

It’s odd that an Internet protocol should be named after a rodent. If you look through your browser’s proxy settings, you’ll find it listed right there—where did it come from, and where did it go?

The Gopher protocol is supposed to be a souped-up version of Anonymous FTP— souped up because of the search capabilities it provided. It organizes information in a strict hierarchy, and no-nonsense text menus would ensure that Gopher servers don’t suffer with slow connections. All that promise...what happened?

It all began with greed— the University of Minnesota (the developers) decided one day that it would charge a licensing fee for the Gopher server. “The hell you are”, said the world, and HTTP climbed the popularity charts. The protocol’s since been released under the GPL, but the damage’s been done.

Moreover, HTML offered much more flexibility and prettiness when it came to content, and the marketing guys loved it.

There are less than a hundred Gopher servers alive today, if you can really call them “alive”—they’re just...well...there. One such site is Gopher Jewels (gopher://home.jumpjet.info/1%5CGopher_Jewels_2), which is something of a “the best of Gopher” collection. Visit, and enjoy.