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Bring Back Gopher Campaign 189

A reader pointed us over to the Gopher Manifesto, the document of record of those who want to bring back Gopher as one of the most-used tools on the Internet. It's a pretty crazy idea, but it does have some good points.
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Bring Back Gopher Campaign

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  • Sure, gopher is text friendly and is better suited to the visually impaired and speaking web browsers, but a few ADA lawsuits will get some more "text only" links showing up on,, *.gov, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And so how does this butchering and raping differ from how the telephone evolved?

    Bell thought it would make a great news and education media. Sorry, Alex, but talk radio has your invention beat out on that score. ;-)

    Think how appalled he would be to learn about being "on hold", or telemarketing, or teenage girls spending scads of time to discuss matters as inconsequential as... whatever it is that teenage girls discuss on the phone! (No, my fellow geeks, I have not figured out women, either, even the immature specimens. Anyone wanna ask Natalie Portman?) Throw in cell phones, 900-numbers and phone sex lines, mail-order shopping, and anything first discussed in Phrack, and the consequences of Bell's invention would be both alien and incomprehensible to Bell himself.

    So why should the Internet or web be any different?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    the good old days, before graphics

    but...what about porn!?
  • Isn't it strange to be publishing a gopher manifesto at ? :-)


  • Damn i miss them good old days. I remember waiting for 12AM to roll around so i could be 1st on the one line BBS that was a member of a multi BBS FE game in my state...I never found a new game that was as fun as them aol ANSI ones.
  • I dunno. It would be awfully nice to have some of the common newsreader features available on Slashdot: killfiles, the ability to see only new posts, download headers only, download each message body once and only once, etc.

    On the other hand, Slashdot, of course, has features not present in nntp such as moderation and, and, ...what else?

  • Gopher was an absolutely wonderful tool for gathering information, without the encumbrances of graphics, MIDI, Flash., etc.

    If google could host an Archie/Veronica search engine in addition to their web index, we'd have a wonderful infrastructure again that is data-centric, instead of so much emphasis on eye candy over content.

    Bring Back Gopher!

  • Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Besides this is an easier way to shed karma than waiting around to see if I've been shredded in meta-moderation yet.

  • ...I usually lower my voice about a quarter octave. But seriously, the song is "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash.

    I stole this from

    Casbah also Kasbah (kzbä, käz-).

    1. A castle or palace in northern Africa.
    2. Often casbah. The older section of a city in northern Africa or the Middle East.

    ------------------------------------------------ --------------------------------
    [French from Arabic dialectal qabah, from Arabic qaabah, fortress.]
    End plagarism

    See also:
    1. Charles Boyer in "Algiers"
    2. most any Pepe Le Peu cartoon

  • Microsoft's Law of Software Envelopment: Every program expands until it looks like a web page or can author (a proprietary version of) one, or both.
  • I went *aaargh* when I visited the UMN gopher info site since the info on that side seems to be unchanged since 1995. That's the last year I was really into gopher for as far as I can remember, doing stuff for the gopher server at the Hogeschool van Utrecht>/A> which has not been put out of it's misery by the looks of it. []

    About gopher at minnesota, I'm trying to remember a bit about licensing of the gopher server or protocol which really killed what was left of gopher when the web was taking off.

  • Unacceptable. "Your browser is broken."
  • Does anyone know where the author got the 10k% number?
  • Anybody else find it amusing that the vast majority of the links^h^h^h^h^haddresses are to http servers?

    Maybe they should preach to the choir until they are converted before attempting to take this to the teeming millions.

  • Amen brother! I couldn't have said it better myself. One qualm however - Chewbacca is obviously not from Endor! If you read Star Wars Saga part IV, in chapter 17 it is clearly stated that Chewbacca is a large accumulation of pubic hair brought to life by Technomages from Alderon. Please do research before posting to the forums.

  • If you need a copy of Netscape 1.1 for windows. You can find it just like that! :-)
  • All of the gopher patches are now sitting in Bug# 49334 [] on Bugzilla.

    All it needs now is a r= and an a=, and those patches go into the mozilla tree.

  • I've never seen someone shoot their own argument down so quickly.

    You wish!

    Slash is a replacement for NNTP like a 14.4 modem is a replacement for an T-1. (Not an OC-3, but definately a T-1.)

    So you mean Slash is the archaic, obsolete, low end version of NNTP? I think not! The analogy fails.

    Is slash distributable? Think how nice it'd be nice to access the local Slash node next time Slashdot is slow for you.

    No, and that's excellent. You want to keep discussions localized to preserve resources. It's precisely this distribution that makes Usenet such a pain to ISPs. Even when you stop getting binary groups, the amount of transfer per day is huge. And that's not talking about posts that are simply lost because of this inefficient, distributed approach.

    NOTE: I'm not saying distribution is bad, just that once it gets too large it starts to fail and that it's the wrong solution for /.

    Can Slash sustain long-term conversation, like over a period of weeks rather then about 4 hours per article on a high-traffic site?

    No and that's excellent. I want to discuss a bit over an article and let it drop. I'm not willing to argue over the same thing over and over as time goes by. Bring on the new, take away the old.

    Can it be accessed by a myriad of different clients (there's a big HELL NO!)?

    Excuse me? Isn't the web large enough for you?

    Distributing binaries?

    What about them? Weren't you so fervorous about discussions? IMHO, you should only care about binaries if you want to trade porn or post warez, for I have yet to find a legitimate use for those on Usenet.

    How do you DOS Usenet?

    That's a minor issue considering /.'s size and its link. If you considering serious DOS'ing, the whole web is on danger of falling apart. The only way to reduce these threats is either to kill usability by reworking protocols like ICMP and UDP or to kill anonymity.


  • A good use for gopher would be for storing books, historical documents, official documents (like laws), and stuff like that. These don't need hyperlinks but could use the "menus" in gopher for like tables of contents and that sort of thing.
  • Debian user will do a

    # apt-get install gopher gopherd

    // Klaus

  • Yeah, Gopher was cool. But the World Wide Web came along and did at least four things that were better:
    • Structured documents--yeah, this has been stretched to the point of abuse, but it sure was nice when it came along.
    • Non-hierarchical information systems. Gopher was great for browsing big directories of things, but not so good for documents that had more complex relationships.
    • Separation of protocol (HTTP... or Gopher, FTP, etc) from format (HTML... or plaintext, gif, etc).
    • A fairly extensive, and more importantly extensible, document type system (by adopting MIME), at least once we hit HTTP 1.0.

    Gopher+ tried to solve some of these problems, but they'd already been solved, more thoughtfully, by the fine folks at CERN. Gopher+ was too little, too late (and further encumbered by an ill-conceived anti-corporate licensing scheme).

    I'm not here to laugh at Gopher--it was a great first pass, and I cut my teeth on it like many others did. But it really was just a first pass; let's not forget the reasons we left it behind in the first place.

    (Oh yeah, and yes, the Gophers are the U of M's sports teams.)
  • Number of bytes is exactly what I meant. I didn't mean as a measure of how informative. That was the whole point of that quip.

  • Just rename it to Beaver and watch the hits roll in. :-)

  • Some of the things that make gopher seem antiquated are just the things we might need for an intelligently navigable space on PDAs.

    Right now, the average web page looks terrible on a palm - the graphics don't fit the resolution, the links are often broken, and (particularly with cached content like a synched AvantGo) you never know which pages are stored and which are missing.

    It seems gopher would solve some of these problems, providing a hierarchical space that's more well thought out for a PDA user's experience. I believe there's also less protocol necessary for the browser to understand.
  • HTTP is as stateless as Gopher is, so there's no difference here. Remember that cookies, session handling in PHP and the like are hacks on top of the HTTP protocol. Of course you can serve dynamic content with Gopher given a server that can pull such a stunt. Shameless plug: Visit gopher:// for my dynamic Gopher server with CGI-like functions written in 26 lines of Perl (this includes all the documents on the gopher. Granted, most of the documents don't have more than 1 line of text).

  • Gopher started at the University of Minnesota, it was given the name Gopher after the school mascot, the Golden Gopher.
  • I went on the gopher servers not too long ago, curious to see if anything was less. I found a couple servers at colleges, with a few papers. I couldn't find anything later than '97.

    I used to like gopher, but haven't heard anything on it for a while. It is all but dead now. (I feel like Obi-Wan talking about the Republic...) Gopher was cool, and hey, maybe when the world wide web turns into nothing but one gigantic pool of commercialism, it'll turn into a haven for Nerds, along with slashdot.

    At least, it was interesting about reading about early linux installs, BSD, and old DOS programs.

  • Both Internet Exsplorer and Mozilla suppor the gopher protocol, so compatablity isn't a problem. Almost everyone who surfs the web already has a gopher client :P
  • If part of Gopher was the parseing of HTML documents.... then we could conceivably access the entire WWW via Gopher. yes, I know there are issues with that, but lets face it, most of the CONTENT of the web is in text form, and would work with Gopher.

    PDFs, and forms of streaming audio and video... That would make Gopher viable again. As another post of mine here says: I'll take a FUNCTIONAL Internet over a glitzy one

  • ... a gopher:// link to the manifesto?
  • Gopher would be a great thing to revive. The web is no longer about information, it's about flash and money and porn. There are many times when just having a repository of searchable, linked information would be very useful.

    There was a program out called GN way back in the day that was a gopher server that could serve very basic web stuff, too. That might not be a bad place to start.


  • I agree it's a bloody nuisance to have to copy 'n' paste. However, a gopher browser could just as well use a good RE to pick out URLs and make them clickable or live or whatever you'd like to call it. For more reliability, they could be wrapped in <URL...> like one old RFC suggested for plain text.

    As to the lack of gopher scheme in Netscape... I've always believed it was bad to load a lot of scheme into the browsers anyway, since they usually fxck up the implementation (FTP is usually wrong "in the corners", for instance; making the compactness of the URL notation useless when you're trying to exchange a file and ICQ doesn't want to work grumble grumble). I'd suggest finding an HTTP proxy that does gopher... does Squid? It'd be a shade easier to add gopher to Squid than to Mozilla, if necessary, I bet, and we could all share in the fruits of the labour. It makes a lot more sense to have a good local cache proxy running, then all your browsers have consistent, upgradeable, correctable, expandable, etc. behaviours in URL and cache.

  • Gopher client for Win32: her/ []

  • Actually this already exists to an extent with LINK REL

    The Dancing Jakob Nielsen [] wrote a short paper [] on its implementation in iCab [].

  • I've posted comments a couple times on Slashdot about resurrecting gopher. Maybe now, people will stop thinking that I'm the sole raving lunatic around here. :^)
  • > It's relatively hard to load up a news reader to comment on an article rather then just type something into a comment box and press "submit"

    That's ridiculous. Iyou're reading a UseNet article, you've already GOT a news reader loaded up to read it. All you have to do is hit whatever letter (or click) to start a reply, click when done.

    The interface for reading articles in a well-designed newsreader is about a zillion times better than ANY web-based discussion board interface I've ever seen, and that definitely includes Slashdot. It's a pathetic way to do this. But, there is hope on the horizon in the form of ForumZilla [].

    Using a webbrowser to read a discussion (whether it's reading a usenet article, or reading a webboard like Slashdot) is about as smart as using a webbrowser as your one and only FTP client. The interface is not designed for, and is definitely NOT optimal for the task at hand. Unfortunately, Slashdot isn't a newsgroup. :(

    alt.slashdot.misc - Yeah!
  • what also confuses me is why we would want to use that sort of function to transfer data (audio/visual). FTP was always there for that, there is some use of HTTP to send large binaries, but mostly it is still done via FTP. That is after all what it was intended for.

    I say we stick to the way things are. I don't find the Internet to be as slow as he apparently believes it to be. Change is usually good, but only forward progress... No sense in reverting back to things that were left in the past (for good reason).
  • funny thing is that the web now has interfaces for NNTP browsing that are in most cases more friendly than most USEnet programs (Deja News emails me my headliners from, I don't see 'tin' doing that).

    I can search a MASSIVE amount of newsgroups fast w/Deja (and probably google).

    Well, whatever, I am done posting my random none-sense ;)
  • Never was the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words" more true than on the Internet.

    yeah, especially in the number of bytes it takes. now, when it comes to value and interest, it's more like a word is worth half a dozen .gifs. just do a "page info" from netscape on any page on a commercial website, and go through the list of .gifs and .jpgs... most of them are completely uninformative, they're just put there to make the layout "cute" and the page slower.

  • Calm down people, just use Lynx! I remember the days of gopher, nothing incredibly special about it. I'm much more nostalgic for the local BBS scene.

  • And Captain Stubing, and Isaac, and all the rest of the crew!
  • Using gopher instead of http is like using nntp instead of slash.

    There was a time I thought that perhaps nttp instead of slash would actually be a good idea, specially due to /.'s issues with server stability. Slash turned out to be much better because it's so convenient.

    Gopher isn't convenient at all. Drop it.

  • The thing with gopher was that all the gopher sites were exactly the same. They all had Alice's Adventures in Unix-land, and the CIA World Factbook, and How to Make A Nuke in Your Backyard, and all that crap. Now, of course there's a point to having mirrors, but this made it a little absurd.
  • Never was the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words" more true than on the Internet. Although it often gets in the ten to hundred thousand range :-)

  • If you put HTML tags in Gopher documents linking to gopher and http URLs, a web browser would make them into links, right?

    So why on earth can't a Gopher document have links?

  • There were a lot of good reasons for the web to overtake gopher. So why go back?
    When I saw Gopher and the web they weren't that diffrent. Nice clients and easy access to information.
    But I could publish my own web pages.. Gopher never really provided that.

    So why go back?
    Oh sure the web was designed to be expandable etc and it really pushed new vistas. E-Commerce and multimedia.

    But look at it today... Multimedia is still a shambles. No web browsers for Unix or Windows that fully support all the web standards. (Notice I'm side stepping Amiga... I've seen some nice work from Amiga web browsers and I suspect they are far more on the ball than Netscape and Microsoft).

    To get a decent web browser you may need an Amiga.. A decent web server is a Sun Solarus.

    For basic information retreaval that kinda sucks. It shouldn't need much more than the power of an AT&T 3B2 or a i386 and decent clients should be available to at least 90% of the net population (read.. Microsoft Windows.. and Unix.. and Mac.. not Amiga..)

    It speaks well for Amiga that it really is the last of the great web client boxes.. I mean.. wow..

    Now Unix people don't wish to be pushed into using something other than what they like... Hay Windows people.. you gotta use an Amiga or be cut off from the Net.. how do you feal hmm?? Makes you feal really pissed off don't it?

    Amiga people: This is what revenge tasts like...

    So.. thats why gopher.
    Gopher is stagnent.. It hasn't changed.. Even Netscape makes a decent gopher client.
    You can "surf" all of gopher comfortable knowing your client works fine...
    Not so when surfing the web...

    But gopher is still a step backwards...
    But for uniform compatability it can't be beat...

    I don't think gopher is the right direction..
    The Internet has evolved and the web is really byond limit...
    Time for something GNU :)
  • It's dead, get over it - Using gopher instead of http is like using nntp instead of slash.

    I've never seen someone shoot their own argument down so quickly. Slash is a replacement for NNTP like a 14.4 modem is a replacement for an T-1. (Not an OC-3, but definately a T-1.)

    Is slash distributable? Think how nice it'd be nice to access the local Slash node next time Slashdot is slow for you. Can Slash sustain long-term conversation, like over a period of weeks rather then about 4 hours per article on a high-traffic site? Can it be accessed by a myriad of different clients (there's a big HELL NO!)? Distributing binaries? How do you DOS Usenet?

    NNTP is superior to slash in essentially all ways (and the ones you're thinking of are solvable if you're willing to have one centralized news server), except for one and only one: It's relatively hard to load up a news reader to comment on an article rather then just type something into a comment box and press "submit", like you say. For this convenience we pay a stiff price, as do all other web implementations of "discussion boards" that ignore decades of previous art.

    Nor do they have to be completely seperate entities: Consider Conversant [], which does it all, all at once, and integrated. Pretty cool.

    Personally, I think your point about Gopher stands, but your example sucked pretty hard.

  • Allow me to clarify: If you are already reading a web article, i.e. on Slashdot, it is relatively difficult to load up a news reader when you can just type into a TEXTAREA. (Certainly, if you were reading Slashdot somehow in your newsreader right now, the converse would be true: It would be relatively difficult to load a web browser to reply to something when the "r" button is so close at hand.)
  • Serving up static information reduces its utility enormously. Imagine a book today with footnotes, table of contents and page numbering, bookmarks, index, even ads to future releases. Compare this to say a linear scroll. By embedding links within a document, you enhance the non-linear flow of information, allowing one to fold, search, cross-reference and annote to heart's content. Gopher is more suited to a final frozen output whereas today's modern database backed designs allow greater contentual information (e.g. witness the /. whinge about duplicated submissions).

    The real mess comes from the fact that people have been sloppy in not separating the structure from the logic from the links (cough*ASP*cough). But then decent tools will eventual arrive and discipline will rexert itself (hopefully).

  • Yeah...kinda...

    HTML does links. Links are cool. They can link to all kind of content. That includes them pictures.

    But the <img> tag has been depreciated in favor of the <object> tag, which is really impressive. I don't want to look up the spec right now but it goes somthing like this.

    <object href="http://cool video of space shuttle launch" type="video"> <object href="shuttle.jpg" type="jpg"> Shuttle launched 20 Nov 1995</object> </object>

    I am okay with pictures and multimedia as long as they are used to relay content. But they are not! Check out them roundy thingies in Slashdot's headings on the front page. They are images and they are only so that the page looks all roundy!

    The object tag allows the browser to pick a method for viewing the content based upon its capabilites or user preference. But why would a web designer do that when it can do:

    <object href="cool splash page" type="flash animation">Sorry...but this page requires Flash 4, Shockwave, IE or Netscape 4, Windows Media Player, and 800x600 resolution</object>

    But I digress!

    (goes to look up the word "digress")
  • There still are lots of BBSs out there. Try telnetting to if you want to play classic door games like BRE and LORD...
  • Interestlingly enough, Citadel BBSes started in the twin cities.

    But wait, where in the world did Gopher start, serverwise? The first one I remember was

    (or was it consultant.?)
  • i actually wrote something for a class on this very subject [], just short of seven years ago.

    funny that it should come up again.

    glad to see i was right.


  • anyone will go-pher it. haha haha.
  • 2 people actually found this funny. That's sad.
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • blegh, stupid lameness filter doesn't recognize sarcasm. so I'm just gonna downcase this and you can imagine that it's typed in ALL-CAPS

    not only that, but we should even go

    back to using 40-character column widths

    then we won't have to worry about if the

    person reading has an 80-column card

    installed. this is really how things are

    supposed to be. and while we're at it,

    let's stop using all these fancy

    characters like backslash and tilde.

    they really mess up a lot of terminals.

    and those old things are the best way to

    access a computer. none of these fancy

    svga graphics and multiple windows.

    pdp-8 all the way, baby! woo-hoo!!!

  • Remember the Law of Software Envelopment: Every program expands until it can read mail. The programs which cannot are replaced by ones that can.

    That's a jwz ideal. Back when the Mozilla project had just started (like, a few weeks after it was announced) I was on some sort of general Mozilla mailing list where people could toss around ideas on how the project should go. I suggested immediately that the email client, the newsreader, and that godawful HTML composer should be completely separate from the browser. Well, I should have worn my asbestos underwear 'cause jwz flamed me into ashes with the above italicized Law of Software Envelopment.

    I still believe that the ideal program should do one thing and do it well while maintaining harmonious interoperability with other, even dependent, programs. (A separate browser and email client could do this effortlessly and many already do.) Have we forgotten the principles of the Unix philosophy so quickly?

    There are a few exceptions where integration is desired... For example, with Napster, the application does the searching, the chatting, and the downloading. However, I still believe that the world wide web and email are completely different entities with literally no relation to each other than the odd anchor tag. Hotmail, el al, are completely different, since your web browser isn't technically the client, the web *server* is.
  • Sadly, the moderators have stopped paying attention. You had some good stuff here.
  • From gopher://
    (of course)

    IMPORTANT: Using a web browser to access gopher space
    updated 23 August 2000

    The majority of you are probably using a web browser to explore Gopherspace.
    Happily, most web browsers will still understand Gopher, but they are at
    best suboptimal. No major web browser understands Gopher+, for one thing.
    Also, Internet Explorer should NOT be used at ALL! (I'll explain presently).

    Still, they're the easiest way to access Gopherspace, so here's some help with
    using them and deficiencies you need to be aware of.

    Lynx is probably the best browser for surfing both the Web and Gopherspace.
    It seamlessly shifts between the two, is fast and respectful to servers,
    and is the only web browser that recognises GET gopher selectors as web
    pages and automatically maps them into URLs. This is more exciting than
    it sounds, trust me. :-) It also supports the gamut of Gopher features,
    including search servers. The only thing it lacks is Gopher+.

    Netscape is acceptable if not spectacular as a gopher client. It doesn't
    know how to understand Gopher+ but it's fairly tolerant, and also, like
    Lynx, supports the gamut of Gopher features. It isn't that smart with
    web URLs masked as Gopher selectors, and it isn't as seamless as Lynx,
    but it gets the job done.

    Internet Explorer is miserable as a Gopher client, however. It does not
    handle the i itemtype correctly, which is used for displaying informational
    text; it does not allow access to gopher ports other than 70, which is a
    VERY crippling limitation; and worst of all, you can CRASH Internet Explorer
    completely, or even Microsoft Web Proxy, by going to any gopher selector
    that has a question mark '?' in it. This seems to have been repaired, finally,
    in some versions of 5.0 but I still observe this bug from time to time.
    There are also some reported problems with using itemtype 7 search servers,
    such as Veronica-2, where IExplorer hangs. These deficiencies make Internet
    Explorer completely unsuitable for Gopherspace. I have attempted to report
    these bugs to Microsoft several times but have been defeated by their tech
    support page. The irony is that Internet Information Server still supports
    Gopher as one of its protocols. Do NOT use Internet Explorer for any kind
    of serious Gopherspace exploration.

    The bottom line is that if you intend to do serious exploration of the
    world of Gopher, you need a Gopher+ client (some are available here).
    But if you're just casually browsing, we recommend Lynx or Netscape.

    Send your questions and your suggestions (particularly about other
    browsers: how do webTV and Opera fare?) to

  • I've been seeing a LOT of posts that support Gopher because of the lack of support for images and whatnot, but that seems rather silly to me. What exactly is it that keeps an HTTP page from presenting just text? I've been on many different websites that were text only, such as mailing list digests. So what exactly does Gopher provide that makes it superior in this regard? The comments here are highly misdirected, as it isn't in a matter of technology but of design that the problem lies. The only way that switching to Gopher would solve that problem is if Gopher replaced the entire Internet. To be honest, I would rather just let the "Lookee! Its my puppy!" pages remain and have the option of placing diagrams, links and other useful tools within a document.

    Deo []: Growing Awareness
  • funny thing is that the web now has interfaces for NNTP browsing that are in most cases more friendly than most USEnet programs (Deja News emails me my headliners from, I don't see 'tin' doing that).

    I can search a MASSIVE amount of newsgroups fast w/Deja (and probably google).

    Very true, but how much would you pay to have NNTP delivered to you over the web?

    The only reason deja can do it for nothing is because of a flood of venture capital and the odd ad. How many of these free web services will exist in a few years if they don't start making money some how? (disclaimer: I have no idea if deja is making money or not off it's dejanews banner ads and whatever else they do)

    I agree that the infrastructure for http/html is so prevelent that developing applications that use the net in some other way will face a barrier of sorts. However, I think it's silly to expect that every possible application of the networking of the world can be done well using http & html. To wit:

    • Napster
    • icq
    Neither of thse programs use the web and lots of newbies learned how to use it pretty quick.

    I think the bigger hurdle in getting joe sixpacks to use usenet is convincing them that they might actually want to have long winding conversations/flame wars/debates, stretching over days, weeks & months. I think the answer you'd get from most people, having explained the concept, would be, "What's the point? Why wouldn't I just msg my friends on icq/aim/whatever.."

    In addition, to get the most of usenet/fido forums/etc, you have to give *and* take. If no one contributes to the group faq or otherwise engenders a sense of structure, the group dies or falls into chaos. Web based services (i.e. Slashdot) don't have this problem because they can't exist without a central individual/corp serving it up, and that is what provides the focus & structure. I don't know many people outside of the pre-1994 internet/bbs community who would consider maintaining a faq to be a productive use of their time, compared to say, volunteering for the united way or some such.

    Who knows - maybe they're right.

    As an addendum, the great thing about usenet vs. most web discussion forums (i.e. not usenet via http) is that there is no rush to post in the former. i.e. if I start thinking of something to say, I can spend a few days working on it before posting. In slashdot-land, a few days is death, no one will ever read it and even a few hours is crucial. It makes me rush my posts and that's unfortunate.

  • When i first joined the internet scene there werent many gopher sites left. But whether it be by Gopher or something else, id like to see more practical pages come around. I really dont like the way the internet is going in some areas. Everyone and their dog seems to have a personal home page full of animated gif's going on about themselves. Espeically a lot of goth webpages on the internet. "Gothic X of the Y" etc. I'm an avid reader of sites like slashdot and tomshardware who provide me with (usually) usefull information than helps or at least affects my daily life.

  • Bringing back Gopher is a regressive step - it is old and antiquated, there can be no disagreement with that.

    What has happened in the meantime is research and study into hypermedia systems and information structuring, so the intelligent approach is to better organise the raw data, and then make it presentable and useable in different formats. A popular current example is WAP - it should be possbile to use the same information base to create WAP view and a HTML view (and a Java view, and ... so on).

    What the complaint should be about is bad and inappropriate design. There are some cases where it is virtually impossible to find what should be a simple piece of information in a graphically bloated and obscure WWW site.

  • Actually I have just had another thought - one of the positive things that could result from "deep linking" is more competition and better presentation of information.

    For instance, someone could create another interface to buying books that they think is superior to amazons, but rather than store all details about books, it could call up Amazon, or Borders by dereferencing their sites with the books ISBN number. In fact, it could eventually be the case that no one uses the original Amazon or Borders interface, but goes for this new interface. Amazon or Borders could decide to try and buy the new interface, or they could just resign to the fact that they do not have the "value added" end of the chain any more, and all they are doing is the raw guts of selling the books, which is perhaps not so lucrative.

    The same could occur with a movie company that has a dodgy web interface - some entrepreneur could create a new WAP interface, and deep link into the movie companies web site - and perhaps do a better business than the movie company. The movie company could perhaps try and redesign its site so prevent this occuring (it can do as it pleases), but it should not be against the law for someone to try and create meta sites.

    Coming back to Gopher - what this means is that gopheresque interfaces could be created by people with economic or other interests (they may make money out of the new interface, or do it for "good will" type reasons) to existing data bases or web sites.

  • [The Gopher protocol is] a hell of a lot more simple than HTTP and other protocols of the same line.

    Basic HTTP is really simple: "GET /index.html\r\n" and the entire response is the page.

    without having to wait for 500000000M of images to load

    Then turn off image loading, or use a character-cell browser such as lynx, links, or w3m.

  • Three words for this: image map navigation. w3m does admirably on *some* of them, but not all.

    And the ones it doesn't work on aren't valid HTML either, as HTML requires alt tags wherever there's an image. HTML also recommends a "longdesc" link, which could be used to create a textual version of the image map.

    To put it another way: It's the page designer's fault for creating overly complex pages.

  • There still are lots of BBSs out there. Try telnetting to if you want to play classic door games like BRE and LORD...

    And there are still lots of BBSs out there where you can actually talk to people, share information, have a good time, whatever. Let's not mix up the concept of "BBS" and "online game" like a whole bunch of people did in the mid and late 80s.

    Check out Citadel [] for instance.

  • Any system governed and used by humans has a tendency to get molded and twisted into something more apt to serving our needs. To resist this is to impede our progress. We might hit a few bumps on the road, and get mad because the "good 'ol" days were "better," but in the end we evolve. I don't think it's any arguement at all to say that the Web has done far more for society than Gopher has.
  • Why not create something like Yahoo!, except have very strict rules about what sites are indexed?

    Of course, you'd be stuck with the problem of policing it. OTOH, you could pipe all the sites through a Perl script that stripped the offensive tags, or you could just run Lynx...

    Yeah, just run Lynx. :)

    I agree though. When several alternatives are available, I always choose the one with the minimal ammount of fluff. It seems the web has revealed a new truth: a word is worth a thousand pictures.

  • Consider what would happen if we all pulled this kind of stunt:

    We'd no longer need 700Mhz PCs to display all the HTML eyecandy.

    I could view a webpage without having to wait a minute for my modem's lights to stop flashing.

    This is all very well, but what would happen to the telecommunications industry and chip manufacturers if we didn't have to upgrade CPUs and internet connections every 6 months... Anyway, I'm off to support the economy by installing netscape 6 and another 64 megs.


  • The reasons I want to see gopher make a comeback:
    1. Simple navigation without having to wait for 500000000M of images to load
    while looking for information [I, as well as many others out here in the
    country, have slow connection speeds on everything]
    2. None of this over-hyped hypertext shit. Of course, you *can* use certain
    gopher servers [like gn] for web servers, but they fulfill their purposes
    quite nicely without having to push for that
    3. It's a hell of a lot more simple than HTTP and other protocols of the same
    I use gopher on my own box exclusively.
  • so i read the manifesto. i felt the nostalgia. then thought about it for a little while. then went to the gopher links provided in the article and i the same question remained there all the way to this post: WHY?

    it would be like bringing back the BBS', betamax or 8Tracks. they were all great at what they did but their time has passed. it's called progress and i do think that the web is way superior to gopher. after all you can do with http/html what you do with gopher and more, using gopher would be like using token ring networks. sure it cures collissions, but at what cost?

    just my opinion.
  • Great! I can just imagine the slashdot trolls:
    EEW... gopher-goat sex?

    Can you imagine a beowulf cluster of theese?
  • Well, I guess there is always ASCII pr0n...

  • On MeatballWiki [], we have collected [] a bunch of links to active gophers as well as some papers and quotations about it.

    My personal favourite gopher is the WELLGopher [].

    Finally, be warned about using gopher in current browsers. Since no one cares about gopher any more, the existing clients are rather crashprone.

  • If nothing else, that would make it take off ...,

    and there would be no bandwidth wasted on ads, etc. just pure music.

    you would also have to be more than a technology wannabe to get your tunes, of course.

    an iron clad way to keep aol, etc goof balls in their play pen.


  • That's "Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index of Computerized Archives" for the not-so-elite =).

  • I was thinking... gopher would be great for accessability and wireless.

    Heh. If you ever use one of the wireless web browsers in Motorola's StarTac and TimePort phones, you'll notice that the interface is basically indistinguishable from gopher. Considering just how many millions of dollars and man-years of wrangling went into finalizing and building the WAP spec, I can't find this anything but amusing. Forward...into...the past!

  • Gopher did have hyperlinks -- they were merely listed at the bottom instead of randomly through the text. Normally you'd go to one by pressing a corresponding number on the keyboard
  • by Bradley ( 2330 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @10:53PM (#605934)
    I'm going on exchange to McGill University next year, and all the timetables and stuff are in a gopher system. So I wrote a patch for mozilla. Its attached to bug 49334 [].

    Searches don't work, and you can't use proxies (now I'm finished exams those are the next feature), but the rest of standard gopher works fine.

  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:35PM (#605935)

    I was thinking... gopher would be great for accessability and wireless.

    Then I started thinking some more. Why not just use the standards used to represent inforamtion to wireless browsers to send information to the handicapped and to those of us who would prefer (so very much) to see content rather than flash.

    A keyboard-controlled web with a standard UI and no gawdy graphics.

    Maybe somebody could create a gopher gateway... if you can't parse HTML cleanly for this purpose, there is no way that disabled populations have full access to the Internet.

  • Here is the original documentation [] on gopher.
  • by mad_ian ( 28771 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:13PM (#605937) Homepage
    I remember useing Gopher, although it was after HTTP was takeing over.

    I prefer Gopher for one reason: I get to the information faster, and don;t have to deal with all the ads and glitz of the WWW.

    HTML and the WWW are becomeing increaseingly useless when it comes to quickly getting information, and reviveing Gopher would be a GREAT way to counteract this.

    Gopher isn;t hard to use, and it's faster. I'll take a FUNCTIONAL Internet over the HTML monstrosity we now have. (although Slashdot is great)

  • by Stanza ( 35421 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @09:16PM (#605938) Homepage Journal
    Like most of the comments I've read seemed to indicate, I also considered gopher to be an outdated protocol. However, I said what the hell, there might be something interesting out there, and clicked on some of the links.

    So after wading through various gopher servers from various universities that I've never heard of, I found myself reading about multithreaded routing protocols, papers on linguistics, and other various research topics.

    Then it dawned on me. Hey! This is what the internet used to be like! Some sysadmin saying "email me if you want to upload something here". Research papers that I don't understand. Wierd stuff that I would never expect to find anywhere else.

    I don't know how it happened, but the wierd stuff that made the internet for me seems to have disappeared over the years. You have the over commercialized stuff, and you have the various weblogs (slashdot et al), and you have the orgs, but rarely do you find research, odd software that you aren't sure would still work on modern hardware as well as the assumption that everyone reading this has a Sparc and would need x11 for a sparc, explanations of AFS, etc, etc....

    I know for some people, they simply aren't interested, they don't have time to just explore and read random things, but those of us who remember when you could go five clicks on the web and be reading more about archaeology than you ever wanted to know, well, here it is again.

    I recommend these gopher pages to any kid who has curiousity about what one might find on the internet. Brings back the old days of "whoa, there is a lot to learn in this world" feelings.

    Someone else compared it to the BBS scene. Yeah, kinda like, similar era, but most of what I saw on gopher is more academic than that. I'd still recommend the modern day BBS scene to those who are looking for wierd stuff, though.
  • by xmedar ( 55856 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @07:10PM (#605939)
    You forgot about the two most hideous tags, SCRIPT and APPLET... IMG tags lead to SCRIPT tags, SCRIPT tags lead to APPLET tags, APPLET tags lead to suffering...
  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @11:46PM (#605940)
    Sure, I remember Gopher, and it was swell. I also pine for the days of HTML 2.0 -- bullet lists on gray backgrounds, you could download them in reasonable time on your 14.4k modem. A return to minimalism would be welcome in this age of high-bandwidth schlock.

    But look, anytime someone publishes a "manifesto" to preserve or resurrect some technology, particularly an Internet technology, you know that their time is almost over for good. If you want to see Gopher come back, then bring it back by publishing information on Gopher that readers will want to see. These things stand or fall on the choices of all those Internet users out there, and if your beloved technology is really as good as you say, they'll come and get it. Just imploring everyone to use it will never be good enough. It's usually a sign that you're losing the argument.
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @08:37PM (#605941)
    How long would it take to port the slashdot code to gopher? ^_^
  • by Bushwacker ( 101443 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:23PM (#605942) Homepage
    This protocol doesn work in Netscape 6.0 anymore. Guess AOL finally made it "Just to easy".
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:29PM (#605943) Homepage
    Not only should we bring back gopher, we should BRING BACK ALL CAPS LIKE IN THE DAYS OF YORE.


    n.b. Cool a troll started by Hemos himself...

  • by Erasmus Darwin ( 183180 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @09:12PM (#605944)
    On your first point (the lack of easy personal publishing), while that was certainly a reason gopher died, it's not one of the reasons why gopher has to stay dead. It was a lack of foresight in the server implementation rather than a fundamental lacking in the protocol.

    On the second point (data wasn't very formatted), I'd argue that while documents were plain ASCII, the meta-data/navigation had much better formatting than equivilant web navigation. For awhile, I hated using lynx over gopher, as with lynx the navigation choices could be scattered throughout paragraphs of arbitrary text. With gopher, on the other hannd, it was always a simple menu that could be navigated by entering the number of your choice.

    Overall, though, I agree with you that there's not a compelling need to bring back gopher back to the mainstream. What I would like to see, however, is a the addition of a gopher-like menuing structure into the native capabilities of HTML (i.e. something a little more powerful than just a frame with a bunch of anchor tags).

  • by davejhiggins ( 188370 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:19PM (#605945) Homepage
    Yes, I more-or-less agree with this. I think that gopher is unlikely to make a comeback for for precisely that reason... compared to today's all-singing, all-dancing websites with 50000Mb of graphics or whatever gopher just doesn't look appealing. It looks, well, technical. That, and the fact that you need to have slightly more Clue to be using it in the first place.

    Now, I myself am quite happy to use gopher / lynx / nntp / other nice things, but the fact is that however much we want to deny it, the vast majority of internet users are now fairly clueless / computer-illiterate people using the browser -- IE -- that happened to come preinstalled on their windows computer (after days of lessons from their 12-year-old child) and hell, probably OE for email. And I know it's sometimes considered flamebait around here to remind people that masses of people use Win/IE, but they do. And most of these people are never going to use nntp because it's something else that would need to be explained to them, and requires scary things like new programs etc to use, which they don't have time to learn about.

    And it's all very well saying "sod them, they don't deserve to be on the net anyway" or such things, but places like slashdot, or better, Yahoo Communities and co., prove that these people are still human, still have interesting contributions to make, and by designing a pretty message board around the web that they can just about work out how to use, you can get many, many more people joining in, and certainly much wider cross-sections of people contributing etc, than you would with a newsgroup. And that's what makes them really "rock the kazbah".

    That's why I'm slightly worried that the "bring back gopher campaign" is equivalent to us techies saying "sod today's average internet user, let's deliver content via a (wince) obscure protocol that your average windows luser won't want / know how to access and thus won't be able to benefit from".

    I did have a .sig, Sir, but, ummm, the dog ate it.
  • by raymondlowe ( 257081 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:00PM (#605946)
    The Gopher Manifesto seems quite anti internal hyperlinking, but that seems to miss the point. I want to be able to hyperlink inside documents.

    If you go and read the Gopher Manifesto (whic is a text document) it contains many URLs which are probably very interesting, but I have to cut-and-paste them if I want to go to them!

    Sorry, but I'll put up with the mega sized HTML documents if it gives me the useful ability to move quickly between document by clicking a link!

  • by lindner ( 257395 ) <> on Thursday November 23, 2000 @12:19AM (#605947) Homepage
    (Minor celebrity note.. I wrote the unix gopher client and server looooong ago.)

    Gopher may be relaxing in the retirement home, but it has spawned many offspring...

    * Linking between servers (what it's not all on one box!)

    * Linking multiple services together -- Gopher supported Telnet, TN3270, and CSO PH servers as basic types.

    * It put the internet in non-techies hands. All those people with a Mac+ could use it. People with cheap 286 PCs could use it. It was simple -- at the time FTP, telnet and such were not.

    * Gopher 'greased the skids' by making an infosystem work well in spite of slow computers, slow modems. The web would not be where it is today without Gopher.

    * It provided the first infosystem based full-text search engines, which used NeXT's text indexing technology, and later on linked WAIS.

    * Liberalized publishing. Gopher servers could run on cheap Macs and PCs. Most of the early gopher-space was on machines not normally thought of as servers.

    * The suffix ...master, I didn't call myself gophermaster for nothing... :-)

    In the end, Mosaic 'embraced and extended' Gopher. Once the you became a .gif crack-addict you could never go back to the simple world of menu oriented gophers...

  • by spagthorpe ( 111133 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @09:12PM (#605948)
    One of the beauties of Gopher, in addition to it's speed, was the simplicity of the layout. This has great uses right now in the area of PDAs, cell phones, and other devices that don't have a big monitor attached. If you've ever tried to surf the net for info with a Palm, or Nokia cell sucks. All you end up with is a big pile of links anyway, and you waste a lot of bandwidth sorting out the crap, unless you use some kind of processing server. Gopher is the pefect mate for these devices.

    WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

  • by nagora ( 177841 ) on Thursday November 23, 2000 @01:42AM (#605949)
    A lot of people are saying things like "just use lynx in black and white". Gopher was not about basic presentation, although due to its age that's just what it had, it was about organisation of information. Using Gopher was like using a library, with the information index externally (i.e., not as part of the information) while the web is much more like using a single huge encyclopaedia with lots of cross-indexing.

    The gopher systems I remember were much better at finding quality information than the web when you knew what you were looking for, but the web is much better at finding some information on a topic when you're not sure what exactly you need. And porn, of course.

    I can't see why there isn't room for both, or why a Gopher client couldn't display an HTML document with it's formatting intact, as a user option. After all, once the Gopher has found a document it's up to the user agent to display that doc in a suitable format.


  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:40PM (#605950)
    even though this guy has valid points (I am not so sure about a 10k% increase in speed) I don't particularly like the idea of a return to Gopher. We moved away from Gopher for a reason. It was UGLY, it was UGLY, and it was OLD and UGLY. Yes, the Internet was ugly then, but Gopher looks much better in past thought.

    The Internet is in an evolutionary stage. We started out w/old stuff and moved to much prettier things. Yes, Gopher could do the same sort of things, but honestly why change what works (they never do).

    Let's continue to shoot the Gopher rather than just flush it out w/water so it can come back ;-)

    Just my worthless .02 for tonight.
  • by runswithd6s ( 65165 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @05:53PM (#605951) Homepage

    I'm actually quite surprised that most of the responses to this thread have been an offhanded slight. The Gopher system is a very well designed system. It was a solidly built way to share files without opening your network to the security risks of NFS or ftp. It toted a heirarchical organization of information for network wide distribution. And it originated at the University of Minnesota (um..."gopher"... the University mascot?).

    Interesting Links

    So, if you'd like to see how we did it in the "old days", take a look.
  • by CaptainCarrot ( 84625 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:46PM (#605952)
    The Manifesto itself demonstrates why online documents without links are a pain. Look at that list of documents at the end. (Interestingly, only two of them are gopher sites; the rest are http or nntp.) Wouldn't it be convenient to be able to just click on one of them and have the referenced document delivered to your browser? And here they're citing the lack of links within documents as an advantage.


  • by PollMastah ( 174649 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:09PM (#605953) Homepage


    HTTP/HTML has been butchered and raped by commercial interests so much that it's now nothing but an unecessarily bloated mutant of what it ought to have been. For goodness' sake, HTML stands for HyperText markup language! What the h*** is that IMG tag doing there? And all the other monstrosities like EMBED, WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes, ad nauseum. But no, because of the big bucks behind this monster, nobody cares to think about how sensible (or idiotic) it has become. If only they realized how inefficient HTML is for the kind of things it's used for these days.

    IMNSHO, if you want multimedia, use a protocol designed to handle multimedia! I don't see the logic behind multimedia on a text protocol. (Or what used to be a text protocol.)

    But this is just the trees. To take a step back and look at the forest. What is the Web intended to be originally? It's supposed to be a source of information. And no, contrary to what today's couch potatoes might think, flashing images and animations are not information. They are eye-candy. If you want eye-candy, there is cable TV available. Or computer games, if you want something more interactive.

    Information is best conveyed by text, in most cases. And in cases where other formats are more appropriate, they can usually be treated as secondary content (ie., as auxilliary data files that you can download). The front-end interface is most efficient as text -- text to index the non-text content.

    OK, sorry for this long rant, but my point is (was), the revival of gopher is by no means a nostalgia for the "good ol' days". There is a lot of reason why people that don't have dainbramage would rather not waste bandwidth by visiting a graphic-overloaded website, but by visiting something like gopher, where you can find and get the information you want without having to wade through all the noise and muck.

    (Flamesuit on, flame away :-P)

  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2000 @06:05PM (#605954) Homepage

    I remember the days before the web was anything to sneeze at. I remember the days when gopher ruled. It was extremely handy for me to get FTP access on a system that didn't support it, without needing to resort to FTP mail.

    But face it, nobody is going to spend real money on it. The way I look at it, there are a lot of reasons why Gopher died.

    • Personal publishing wasn't easily available. Remember that one of the main reasons why the web took off was because personal pages were easy to create with the httpds that were out there.
    • The data wasn't very formatted. In those days, that was good, but, like it or not, today we need more than ASCII text.
    • The web won the adaptability war. You can do things with the web infrastructure that it wasn't designed for -- Like slashdot, for example. Remember the Law of Software Envelopment: Every program expands until it can read mail. The programs which cannot are replaced by ones that can. Well, you can now read mail with the web infrastructure much better than the Gopher infrastrucre could have been.
    • With the web, we can do business stuff, professional stuff AND personal stuff. Gopher was good for professional research and some limited personal stuff -- mostly supplied by
    • With tables and HTML, we can present more information in a more compact format than ASCII text. And with graphics, we can communicate an idea more with more visual compactness. Gopher was too built around ASCII text terminals.

    Really, I look to Gopher as the forerunner of the web. It had to die for the web to take off.

    Now, there are arguments that it would be a great information retreval protocal for wireless or other usages. However, IMHO, by the time that you actually build a product around this, you will have the processing power in your personal item for HTML or WML and WAP or HTTP. Furthermore, with either of those protocalls, you have a much richer method of interaction from the user, where the user can submit a form instead of just one search field.

    I think that Gopher will always have some sort of a niche, like the people who still do hacking on Apple II computers. It's the same sort of people. The Apple II, IMHO, could have been the Worlds Greatest Computer had things turned out differently. It's great for hacks and research projects and goofing. But Gopher will never stage a comeback.

Trap full -- please empty.