(November 16, 2000, updated April 26, 2001 and early 2002)
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In response to criticism that this Manifesto should be on gopher://
itself, my reply is that free WWWeb access is abundant while
Gopherspace is almost extinct, and that we need to first convert the
WWWeb World and not live in our ivory-tower cloister alone -- so the word
should be broadcast thru as many protocols as possible, first...
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
But once the Internet became commercialized, this ideal hypertext
interface was forgotten, and the gopher dream was scrapped.
The dirty little secret is that today, the most popular browsers can
recognize any URL -- even gopher://! (Netscape is working to
stop this.) (UPDATE: could be a result of "severely overworked
programmers": Netscape's gopher is back and getting better all the time!)
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%!
Is it time for a new Renaissance on the Internet, to bring back the
promise of the early years??
gopher://, aka The Bring Back Gopher Campaign, is a grass-roots
movement to make this happen.
What we need:
- Modern Gopher servers (eventual goal is for an Apache Gopher server)
- Old gopher clients recompiled for modern clients, and distributed with
them by default (Apple support)(http://athene.dnsalias.org/gopher)
New: Mozilla support! (http://www.mozilla.org)
- Investigate the "plugin possibility": the last Gopher server was
ported to FreeBSD; developer says a release of the VR Gopher source
code (still proprietary!) could give Gopher a future as a plugin...
- A gopher-browser capable of receiving gopher-streams for audio and video
- Campaign focal point with mailing-list: now live,
see gopher://gopher.browser.org/ or also http://gopher.browser.org/
- Gopher-compatible multimedia streams for television stations
We can do it!
Campaign links and info
New Gopher Developer's Mailing List:
put "subscribe" in subject and mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Point of Gopher Campaign discussion:
The King of All Gopher Sites:
Prime example of the corporatization of educational institutions!)
Institution that invented it keeping flame alive (Univ of Minnesota):
(Some hope's left?)
First gopher weblog-resource page: gopher://gopher.metafilter.com/
(need to push for gopher.weblogs.com)
news:alt.internet.services (point of contact)
news:alt.internet.provider (demand support at isp level)
New projects & software
GNOME graphic gopher!
Hot new gopher client (Python package!):
UMN gopher/gopherd, GPL Debian!:
Gopherd mirror (1997):
WWWeb to gopher gateway cgi!
Modern gopher hackers:
A code community:
New working client in dbXML:
Overview of clients and servers:
Gopherculture & history
Gopher knowledge (examples):
gopher://quux.org/ multi-gig text treaasure-trove!
Gopher jewels (early infotree structure):
A Brief History of Gopher:
http://www.mat.dtu.dk/icons/gopher/ (UNIX xbm format)
The move against gopher
Who killed it? (Post-WWW secret history):
MSU kills its servers:
Result of overzealous server purging:
Writing on the wall:
Netscape Inc. trying to kill gopher (circa November, 2000)
Anecdotes, stories, fun
Uplifting gopher story:
Connor Sexton writes, "I remember when I was 9 (im 14 now) I was using
Gopher with my dad on my old 486. I remember how cool it was to know
that this information was out there on another computer, being
accessed by other people.. There was a wealth of information so
overwhelming I didnt know what to do with it. As a young child, I was
highly fascinated by Space, and I asked my dad to type in 'How to be
and Astronaut' and I got an essay with that topic. I was SO happy, I
was amazed at what was happening. Today, I use the internet and
witness the horrible commercialization of a wonderful place. The far
reaching hands of capatalism leave no stone unturned. I am willing to
help you pull this together in any way I can. I would love to see the
reinstatement of Goper."
More Gopher thoughts:
Lawrence Rhodes writes, "'Point your Gopher to...' I remember getting
excited when almost anything followed these words. It was a sign of
progress. Or of the impending state of information connectedness we
all now experience. Now it seems so quaint. I miss it so not for the
underpinning technology (which may or may not have been superior) but
for the feeling that the world of information technology, indeed the
world itself, was advancing rapidly enough to allow the common man
access to the world's great storehouses of data. Of couse, in
retrospect, I suppose if I had thought about the common man's
infatigable hunger for porn and nonstop commerce and the myriad other
forms of bad taste, I would have seen the dangers of the banal. Indeed
Gopher represented a simpler, more naive time."
Kris Kennaway writes, "... since there are apparently still people
using gopherd, someone really should fix the remote buffer overflows
in the server which were reported a while back on bugtraq (search on
www.securityfocus.com for the details). An updated version was
released after the first one was found, but then there were more
reported and no new version was released. ... it's kind of disturbing
to think that almost all of what remains of the old gopher network is
probably vulnerable to a remote root exploit."
Co-author of Internet Gopher protocol speaks:
Bob Alberti writes (partial letter), "When in the dawn of the Third
Millennium people, misguided or simply ignorant, are still using
'anonymous' FTP for file servers; and as cell phone developers
reinvent the wheel by whittling HTML down to more compact protocols
rather than building upon what exists; then it is clear that greater
understanding and awareness of the Gopher and Gopher+ protocol is
"FTP is a 1960's-era solution designed to communicate between
'dumb' terminals and mainframes. Having written the FTP-to-Gopher
gateway, I can attest that the FTP protocol is incredibly primitive
and vulnerable to abuse. And the conventional overloading of the
protocol for 'anonymous' FTP service is an example of speed and
patchwork overcoming design limitations. FTP is notoriously insecure,
requiring in many cases bidirectional firewall holes for support, and
communicating in cleartext. FTP can be used to damage its own server,
and FTP cannot serve forms, and only serves banners with clumsy
"Gopher servers can share filesystems quickly and easily.
Gopher allows for 'cap' files to modify the appearance of the
directories being served. It allows for cgi-style scripts, form
submission, and multiple languages. And Gopher easily overlays
existing FTP service directories, providing freedom of choice.
Gopher+ was a bridge spanning the 1200-baud world of its
existence with the 56K future only a few years ahead. When a severe
communications bottleneck exists between the server and the client,
then the quick, clean and efficient Gopher+ protocol provides a
"But Gopher+ will benefit from greater exposure: ignorance of
the Gopher protocol does not serve the greater Internet community: as
with any powerful tool, Gopher service can pose a security
vulnerability, especially when inexpertly implemented. And in order
to provide commercial services, Gopher servers with greater encryption
and security features must be developed.
"Wireless communications developers would be well-advised to
look at this venerable Internet protocol when seeking ways to
communicate with wireless and handheld devices such as PDAs and cell
phones. The Gopher+ protocol could be a quick, efficient,
standardized open-source solution to the problem of handheld clients."
URLs for any CGI Gopher to Web gateways, for the gopher:// impaired?
Send your gopher stories! Just Gopher It!
by Bjorn Karger