October 30, 2004 1:35 AM
I wonder how many even remember gopher. FTP and gopher were the primary means of getting information on the internet back in the beginning. Gopherspace has reduced to a few servers that still has content. Sure, the WWW has it's hyperlinks and html and what's not. But gopher has it's own unique advantages as well. I remember reading about Veronica1 and Jughead2 in my 12th standard prescribed text by Sumit Arora and wondering if archie comics owned the internet or something3. John Goerzen's gopher site is one of the best places to get started in gopherspace. There are some things that you can only find in gopherspace like documents from the past frozen in time describing in detail about ancient VAX assembly code.

The key idea concerning plain text information like in this Wiki file where information is the aim and not presentation or graphics might sound boring, but it is fast. Exactly the same reason why my site uses only 388 bytes of graphics. Gopher clients out there are very rare and the latest Mozilla derivatives don't support gopher+. Internet Explorer 6 has absolutely no support for gopher. One of the noticeable differences between gopher and www is that gopher imposes a much stronger hierarchy. A gopherspace is a menu of entries that is loaded from the server. Imagine a www page with all the links in a tree like fashion on your left half and the only the information on each page. No fancy javascript, css, graphical buttons etc. The links provide descriptions as well4.

The choices are between interactivity, presentation which www provides and raw information which gopher provides. Some direct quotes from the gopher:// manifesto:

Gopher is an infoserver which can deliver text, graphics, audio, and multimedia to clients. Keeping documents "link clean", making linking a function of the server info-tree and not in the doc, layout is kept to its most frugal minimum, and is standard across all docs. No graphic design means its the ideal navigable interface, a hypertext Eden. It gives simplified usage for sight-impaired users, same contents for wired/wiredless, and requires no capital investments in layout and "design". Gopher is real -- and it was fully functional in 1992, even without advertisements!


And mathematical formulae seem to indicate that the speed benefits of putting the entire non-commercial WWW back on gopher could increase access speeds by over 10,000%!

This article for the technically eager provides an interesting way to look at the past.

Some sweet gopher pages: Ada Enchantress of Numbers, An Interview with Phil Zimmerman, creator of PGP, 10 C Commandments.


[1] A Gopher search engine.
[2] Another gopher search engine though it's searching technique is different.
[3] Yes, I have a wild imagination.
[4] Which unfortunately, most modern browsers can't display.

Copyright © 2004-2011 Anirudh Sasikumar. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 21, 2005 4:23 PM