Gopher protocol

From Academic Kids

Gopher is a distributed document search and retrieval network protocol designed for the Internet. It was released in 1991 by Paul Lindner and Mark McCahill of the University of Minnesota.

Contents

Origin

The source of the name "Gopher" is claimed to be three-fold: first, that it "goes-for" information; second, that it does so through a web of menu items analogous to gopher holes; and third, that the sports team of the University of Minnesota is the Golden Gophers.

  • Gopher's* original design goal for sharing documents was similar in scope to the World Wide Web, and as such has been almost completely displaced by it. The Gopher protocol offered some features not natively supported by the Web, imposing a much stronger hierarchy on information stored in it, and many consider it to have had the superior protocol for storing and searching large repositories of information.

Reasons for decline

When the Web was first introduced in 1991, Gopher was well-established and quite popular. By the late 1990s, Gopher had all but disappeared.

There are a number of factors which contributed to Gopher's decline in popularity:

  • In February of 1993, the University of Minnesota announced that they would begin to charge licensing fees for Gopher's use [1] (http://www.funet.fi/pub/vms/networking/gopher/gopher-software-licensing-policy.ancient), which reduced the popularity of Gopher servers [2] (http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1mj6cb$6gm@pith.uoregon.edu). Some believe this is what relegated Gopher to a footnote in the history of the Internet [3] (http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=36e4c2f1.10244576@nntp.best.ix.netcom.com). Indeed, the University of Minnesota eventually re-licensed their Gopher server under the GPL. [4] (http://www.funet.fi/pub/vms/networking/gopher/gopher-software-licensing-policy.new)
  • In contrast to the World Wide Web, whose HTML format allowed proportional fonts, variable text size and attributes, and graphical content in documents, Gopher clients only supported monospaced font plain text documents. This made Gopher less visually appealing.
  • Gopher had a limited structure, making it inflexible compared to the free-form HTML of the Web. With Gopher, every document has a defined format and type, and the typical user must navigate through a single server-defined menu system to get to a particular document. Many people did not like the artificial distinction between menu and fixed document in the Gopher system, and found the Web's open-ended flexibility much more useful for constructing free-form, interrelated sets of documents and interactive applications.

Related Technology

The main Gopher search engine is Veronica. Veronica offers a keyword search of most gopher-server menu titles in the gopher web. A Veronica search produces a menu of Gopher items, each of which is a direct pointer to a Gopher data source.

Availability of Gopher today

As of 2004, there are still a few Gopher servers present on the net, in organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution and the US government; a few are also being maintained by enthusiasts of the protocol.

Some have suggested that the bandwidth-sparing simple interface of Gopher would be a good match for mobile phones and PDAs, but so far, the market prefers WML-WAP, DoCoMo i-mode or other adaptations of HTML.

Gopher support in Web browsers

Gopher support was disabled in Internet Explorer in June, 2002 due to a security vulnerability; it can be re-enabled by editing the registry (see External Links). Other browsers, including Mozilla and AOL still support the protocol, but incompletely — the most obvious deficiency being the inability to render informational text included on menu pages. Konqueror has full Gopher support when the kgopher (http://kgopher.berlios.de/) KIO plugin is installed.

A public proxy server at Floodgap.com (http://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/) allows Gopher pages to be viewed by any web browser by converting them to HTTP/HTML. You can check the gopher abilities of your browser by comparing this gopher menu (gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/) with the version produced by the Floodgap proxy (http://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/gw).

See also

External links

es:Gopher fr:Gopher ja:Gopher nl:Gopher pl:Gopher pt:Gopher uk:Gopher zh:Gopher

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