= Gopher (protocol) =
The Gopher protocol is a communications protocol designed for
distributing, searching, and retrieving documents in Internet Protocol
networks. The design of the Gopher protocol and user interface is
menu-driven, and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its
early stages, but ultimately fell into disfavor, yielding to the HTTP.
The Gopher ecosystem is often regarded as the effective predecessor of
the World Wide Web.
The protocol was invented by a team led by Mark P. McCahill at the
University of Minnesota. It offers some features not natively
supported by the Web and imposes a much stronger hierarchy on the
documents it stores. Its text menu interface is well-suited to
computing environments that rely heavily on remote text-oriented
computer terminals, which were still common at the time of its
creation in 1991, and the simplicity of its protocol facilitated a
wide variety of client implementations. More recent Gopher revisions
and graphical clients added support for multimedia. Gopher was
preferred by many network administrators for using fewer network
resources than Web services.
Gopher's hierarchical structure provided a platform for the first
large-scale electronic library connections. The Gopher protocol is
still in use by enthusiasts, and although it has been almost entirely
supplanted by the Web, a small population of actively-maintained
Gopher system was released in mid-1991 by Mark P. McCahill, Farhad
Anklesaria, Paul Lindner, Daniel Torrey, and Bob Alberti of the
University of Minnesota in the United States. Its central goals were,
as stated in RFC 1436:
* A file-like hierarchical arrangement that would be familiar to
* A simple syntax.
* A system that can be created quickly and inexpensively.
* Extending the file system metaphor, such as searches.
Gopher combines document hierarchies with collections of services,
including WAIS, the Archie and Veronica search engines, and gateways
to other information systems such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and
The general interest in campus-wide information systems (CWISs) in
higher education at the time, and the ease of setup of Gopher servers
to create an instant CWIS with links to other sites' online
directories and resources were the factors contributing to Gopher's
The name was coined by Anklesaria as a play on several meanings of the
word "gopher". The University of Minnesota mascot is the gopher, a
gofer is an assistant who "goes for" things, and a gopher burrows
through the ground to reach a desired location.
The World Wide Web was in its infancy in 1991, and Gopher services
quickly became established. By the late 1990s, Gopher had ceased
expanding. Several factors contributed to Gopher's stagnation:
* In February 1993, the University of Minnesota announced that it
would charge licensing fees for the use of its implementation of the
Gopher server. Users became concerned that fees might also be charged
for independent implementations. Gopher expansion stagnated, to the
advantage of the World Wide Web, to which CERN disclaimed ownership.
In September 2000, the University of Minnesota re-licensed its Gopher
software under the GNU General Public License.
* Gopher client functionality was quickly duplicated by the early
Mosaic web browser, which subsumed its protocol.
* Gopher has a more rigid structure than the free-form HTML of the
Web. Every Gopher document has a defined format and type, and the
typical user navigates through a single server-defined menu system to
get to a particular document. This can be quite different from the way
a user finds documents on the Web.
Gopher remains in active use by its enthusiasts, and there have been
attempts to revive Gopher on modern platforms and mobile devices. One
attempt is The Overbite Project, which hosts various browser
extensions and modern clients.
*, there remained about 160 gopher servers indexed by Veronica-2,
reflecting a slow growth from 2007 when there were fewer than 100.
They are typically infrequently updated. On these servers Veronica
indexed approximately 2.5 million unique selectors. A handful of new
servers were being set up every year by hobbyists with over 50 having
been set up and added to Floodgap's list since 1999. A snapshot of
Gopherspace in 2007 circulated on BitTorrent and was still available
in 2010. Due to the simplicity of the Gopher protocol, setting up new
servers or adding Gopher support to browsers is often done in a
tongue-in-cheek manner, principally on April Fools' Day.
*In November 2014 Veronica indexed 144 gopher servers, reflecting a
small drop from 2012, but within these servers Veronica indexed
approximately 3 million unique selectors.
*In March 2016 Veronica indexed 135 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 4 million unique selectors.
*In March 2017 Veronica indexed 133 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 4.9 million unique selectors.
*In May 2018 Veronica indexed 260 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 3.7 million unique selectors.
*In May 2019 Veronica indexed 320 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 4.2 million unique selectors.
*In January 2020 Veronica indexed 395 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 4.5 million unique selectors.
*In February 2021 Veronica indexed 361 gopher servers, within which it
indexed approximately 6 million unique selectors.
The conceptualization of knowledge in "Gopher space" or a "cloud" as
specific information in a particular file, and the prominence of the
FTP, influenced the technology and the resulting functionality of
Gopher is designed to function and to appear much like a mountable
read-only global network file system (and software, such as gopherfs,
is available that can actually mount a Gopher server as a FUSE
resource). At a minimum, whatever a person can do with data files on
a CD-ROM, one can do on Gopher.
A Gopher system consists of a series of hierarchical hyperlinkable
menus. The choice of menu items and titles is controlled by the
administrator of the server.
Similar to a file on a Web server, a file on a Gopher server can be
linked to as a menu item from any other Gopher server. Many servers
take advantage of this inter-server linking to provide a directory of
other servers that the user can access.
The Gopher protocol was first described in RFC 1436. IANA has assigned
TCP port 70 to the Gopher protocol.
The protocol is simple to negotiate, making it possible to browse
without using a client. A standard gopher session may therefore appear
1CIA World Factbook /Archives/mirrors/textfiles.com/politics/CIA
0Jargon 4.2.0 /Reference/Jargon 4.2.0 gopher.quux.org 70 +
1Online Libraries /Reference/Online Libraries
gopher.quux.org 70 +
1RFCs: Internet Standards /Computers/Standards and Specs/RFC
1U.S. Gazetteer /Reference/U.S. Gazetteer gopher.quux.org 70
iThis file contains information on United States fake (NULL)
icities, counties, and geographical areas. It has fake (NULL)
ilatitude/longitude, population, land and water area, fake (NULL)
iand ZIP codes. fake (NULL) 0
i fake (NULL) 0
iTo search for a city, enter the city's name. To search fake
ifor a county, use the name plus County -- for instance, fake
iDallas County. fake (NULL) 0
Here, the client has established a TCP connection with the server on
port 70, the standard gopher port. The client then sends a string
followed by a carriage return followed by a line feed (a "CR + LF"
sequence). This is the selector, which identifies the document to be
retrieved. If the item selector were an empty line, the default
directory would be selected. The server then replies with the
requested item and closes the connection. According to the protocol,
before the connection is closed, the server should send a full-stop
(i.e., a period character) on a line by itself. However, as is the
case here, not all servers conform to this part of the protocol and
the server may close the connection without returning the final
In this example, the item sent back is a gopher menu, a directory
consisting of a sequence of lines each of which describes an item that
can be retrieved. Most clients will display these as hypertext links,
and so allow the user to navigate through gopherspace by following the
All lines in a gopher menu are terminated by "CR + LF", and consist of
five fields: the 'item type' as the very first character (see below),
the 'display string' (i.e., the description text to display), a
'selector' (i.e., a file-system pathname), 'host name' (i.e., the
domain name of the server on which the item resides), and 'port'
(i.e., the port number used by that server). The item type and display
string are joined without a space; the other fields are separated by
the tab character.
Because of the simplicity of the Gopher protocol, tools such as netcat
make it possible to download Gopher content easily from the command
echo jacks/jack.exe | nc gopher.example.org 70 > jack.exe
The protocol is also supported by cURL as of 7.21.2-DEV.
The selector string in the request can optionally be followed by a tab
character and a search string. This is used by item type 7.
Source code of a menu
Gopher menu items are defined by lines of tab-separated values in a
text file. This file is sometimes called a 'gophermap'. As the source
code to a gopher menu, a gophermap is roughly analogous to an HTML
file for a web page. Each tab-separated line (called a 'selector
line') gives the client software a description of the menu item: what
it is, what it's called, and where it leads. The client displays the
menu items in the order that they appear in the gophermap.
The first character in a selector line indicates the 'item type',
which tells the client what kind of file or protocol the menu item
points to. This helps the client decide what to do with it. Gopher's
item types are a more basic precursor to the media type system used by
the Web and email attachments.
The item type is followed by the 'user display string' (a description
or label that represents the item in the menu); the selector (a path
or other string for the resource on the server); the 'hostname' (the
domain name or IP address of the server), and the network port.
For example: The following selector line generates a link to the
"/home" directory at the subdomain gopher.floodgap.com, on port 70.
The item type of indicates that the resource is a Gopher menu. The
string "Floodgap Home" is what the user sees in the menu.
1Floodgap Home /home gopher.floodgap.com 70
Item type !! User display string !! Selector !! Hostname !! Port
1 Floodgap Home /home gopher.floodgap.com 70
In a Gopher menu's source code, a one-character code indicates what
kind of content the client should expect. This code may either be a
digit or a letter of the alphabet; letters are case-sensitive.
The technical specification for Gopher, RFC 1436, defines 14 item
types. A one-character code indicates what kind of content the client
should expect. Item type is an error code for exception handling.
Gopher client authors improvised item types (HTML), (informational
message), and (sound file) after the publication of RFC 1436.
Browsers like Netscape Navigator and early versions of Microsoft
Internet Explorer would prepend the item type code to the selector as
described in RFC 4266, so that the type of the gopher item could be
determined by the url itself. Most gopher browsers still available,
use these prefixes in their urls.
| || Text file
| || Gopher submenu
| || CCSO Nameserver
| || Error code returned by a Gopher server to indicate failure
| || BinHex-encoded file (primarily for Macintosh computers)
| || DOS file
| || uuencoded file
| || Gopher full-text search
| || Telnet
| || Binary file
| || Mirror or alternate server (for load balancing or in case of
primary server downtime)
| || GIF file
| || Image file
| || Telnet 3270
| **d** || Doc. Seen used alongside PDF's and .DOC's
| **h** || HTML file
| **i** || Informational message
| **s** || Sound file (especially the WAV format)
| **f F A B C D E G H J K L** ||
Historically, to create a link to a Web server, "GET /" was used as a
pseudo-selector to emulate an HTTP GET request. John Goerzen created
an addition to the Gopher protocol, commonly referred to as "URL
links", that allows links to any protocol that supports URLs. For
example, to create a link to http://gopher.quux.org/, the item type is
, the display string is the title of the link, the item selector is
"URL:http://gopher.quux.org/", and the domain and port are that of the
originating Gopher server (so that clients that do not support URL
links will query the server and receive an HTML redirection page).
The master Gopherspace search engine is Veronica. Veronica offers a
keyword search of all the public Internet Gopher server menu titles. A
Veronica search produces a menu of Gopher items, each of which is a
direct pointer to a Gopher data source. Individual Gopher servers may
also use localized search engines specific to their content such as
Jughead and Jugtail.
GopherVR is a 3D virtual reality variant of the original Gopher
Browser Version Notes
Gopher-only browser for Windows, page cache, TFTP, G6 gopher protocol
Browse This browser is for RISC OS
Camino Always uses port 70.
Classilla Hardcoded to port 70 from 9.0-9.2; whitelisted ports from
cURL cURL is a command-line file transfer utility
ELinks Offers support as a build option
Epiphany |Disabled after switch to WebKit
Falkon Requires Falkon ≥ 3.1.0 with both the KDE Frameworks
Integration extension (shipped with Falkon ≥ 3.1.0) enabled and the
(separate) kio_gopher plug-in ≥ 0.1.99 (first release for KDE
Frameworks 5) installed
Google Chrome With Burrow extension
Gophie Gopher-only browser for Windows, MacOS and Linux with full
gopher protocol support|-
Internet Explorer Support removed by MS02-047 from IE 6 SP1 can be
re-enabled in the Windows Registry. Always uses port 70.
| Internet Explorer for Mac PowerPC-only
Konqueror Requires kio_gopher plug-in
Lagrange Lagrange is a graphical gemini client that offers gopher
and finger support.
libwww libwww is an API for internet applications
Line Mode Browser
Mozilla Firefox Built-in support dropped from Firefox 4.0 onwards;
can be added back by installing one of the extensions by the Overbite
| Netscape Navigator
NetSurf Under development, based on the cURL fetcher
OmniWeb First WebKit Browser to support Gopher
Opera Opera 9.0 includes a proxy capability
Pavuk Pavuk is a web mirror (recursive download) software program
SeaMonkey Built-in support dropped from SeaMonkey 2.1 onwards;
can be added back by installing one of the extensions by the Overbite
WebPositive WebKit-based browser used in the Haiku operating
Browsers that do not natively support Gopher can still access servers
using one of the available Gopher to HTTP gateways.
Gopher support was disabled in Internet Explorer versions 5.x and 6
for Windows in August 2002 by a patch meant to fix a security
vulnerability in the browser's Gopher protocol handler to reduce the
attack surface which was included in IE6 SP1; however, it can be
re-enabled by editing the Windows registry. In Internet Explorer 7,
Gopher support was removed on the WinINET level.
Gopher browser extensions
For Mozilla Firefox and SeaMonkey, Overbite extensions extend Gopher
browsing and support the current versions of the browsers (Firefox
Quantum v ≥57 and equivalent versions of SeaMonkey):
* OverbiteWX redirects gopher:// URLs to a proxy;
* OverbiteNX adds native-like support;
* for Firefox up to 56.*, and equivalent versions of SeaMonkey,
OverbiteFF adds native-like support.
OverbiteWX includes support for accessing Gopher servers not on port
70 using a whitelist and for CSO/ph queries. OverbiteFF always uses
For Chromium and Google Chrome, Burrow is available. It redirects
gopher:// URLs to a proxy. In the past an Overbite proxy-based
extension for these browsers was available but is no longer maintained
and does not work with the current (>23) releases.
For Konqueror, Kio gopher is available.
Gopher clients for mobile devices
Some have suggested that the bandwidth-sparing simple interface of
Gopher would be a good match for mobile phones and personal digital
assistants (PDAs), but so far, mobile adaptations of HTML and XML and
other simplified content have proven more popular. The PyGopherd
server provides a built-in WML front-end to Gopher sites served with
The early 2010s saw a renewed interest in native Gopher clients for
popular smartphones: Overbite, an open source client for Android 1.5+
was released in alpha stage in 2010. PocketGopher was also released in
2010, along with its source code, for several Java ME compatible
devices. Gopher Client was released in 2016 as a proprietary client
for iPhone and iPad devices and is currently
Other Gopher clients
Gopher popularity was at its height at a time when there were still
many equally competing computer architectures and operating systems.
As a result, there are several Gopher clients available for Acorn RISC
OS, AmigaOS, Atari MiNT, CMS, DOS, classic Mac OS, MVS, NeXT, OS/2
Warp, most UNIX-like operating systems, VMS, Windows 3.x, and Windows
9x. GopherVR was a client designed for 3D visualization, and there is
even a Gopher client in MOO. The majority of these clients are
hard-coded to work on TCP port 70.
Gopher to HTTP gateways
Users of Web browsers that have incomplete or no support for Gopher
can access content on Gopher servers via a server gateway or proxy
server that converts Gopher menus into HTML; known proxies are the
Floodgap Public Gopher proxy and Gopher Proxy. Similarly, certain
server packages such as GN and PyGopherd have built-in Gopher to HTTP
interfaces. Squid Proxy software gateways any gopher:// URL to HTTP
content, enabling any browser or web agent to access gopher content
Because the protocol is trivial to implement in a basic fashion, there
are many server packages still available, and some are still
Server Developed by Latest version Release date License Written in
[http://aftershock.sourceforge.net/ Aftershock] Rob Linwood 1.0.1
Apache::GopherHandler] Timm Murray 0.1 GPLv2 or any later version
Perl Apache 2 plugin to run Gopher-Server.
[https://github.com/crcx/atua Atua] Charles Childers 2017.4 ISC
Bucktooth Cameron Kaiser 0.2.9 Floodgap Free Software License Perl
[https://github.com/michael-lazar/flask-gopher Flask-Gopher] Michael
Lazar 2.2.1 GPLv3 Python
[https://github.com/heddwch/geomyid geomyid] Quinn Evans 0.0.1
2-clause BSD Common Lisp
[gopher://gopher.r-36.net/1/scm/geomyidae Geomyidae] (gopher link)
proxied link]) Christoph Lohmann 0.34 MIT C
[http://freshmeat.net/projects/gn/ GN] xripclaw 2.25-20020226 GPL C
[http://gofish.sourceforge.net/ GoFish] Sean MacLennan 1.2 GPLv2 C
[gopher://gopher.pcrpg.org Gopher Cannon] Geoff Sevart 1.07 Freeware
.NET 3.5 (Win32/Win64) Version 1.06 of 26 August 2010 is available
gopherspace.de] (gopher link)
[https://metacpan.org/release/Gopher-Server Gopher-Server] Timm
Murray 0.1.1 GPLv2 Perl
[http://gophernicus.org/ Gophernicus] Kim Holviala and others 3.1.1
2-clause BSD C
[http://gophrier.tuxfamily.org/ gophrier] Guillaume Duhamel 0.2.3
[gopher://zzo38computer.org/1gophserv GOPHSERV] 0.5 GPLv3 FreeBASIC
Version 0.4 is available from
gopherspace.de] (gopher link)
[https://github.com/arcfide/goscher Goscher] Aaron W. Hsu 8.0 ISC
[https://port70.net/?1mgod mgod] Mate Nagy 1.1 GPLv3 C
[http://motsognir.sourceforge.net/ Motsognir] Mateusz Viste 1.0.13
[https://github.com/dotcomboom/Pituophis Pituophis] dotcomboom 1.1
2-clause BSD Python Python-based Gopher library with both server and
PyGopherd John Goerzen 18.104.22.168 GPLv2 Python
PyGS] Adam Gurno 0.3.5 GPLv2 Python Development stopped as of 17
[https://redis.io/topics/gopher Redis] Salvatore Sanfilippo 6.2.1
3-clause BSD C
SSS8555 0.777 Perl with G6 extension and TFTP
[https://github.com/sternenseemann/spacecookie Spacecookie] Lukas
Epple 0.2.1.2 GPLv3 Haskell
[https://gitlab.com/leveck/xylophar Xylophar] Nathaniel Leveck 0.0.1
* [gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/1/world List of public Gopher servers]
An announcement of Gopher on the Usenet 8 October 1991]
* [http://gopher.floodgap.com/overbite/relevance.html Why is Gopher
Still Relevant?] — a position statement on Gopher's survival
The Web may have won, but Gopher tunnels on] — an article published by
the technology discussion site 'Ars Technica' about the Gopher
community of enthusiasts as of 5 November 2009
History of Gopher] — Article in MinnPost
* [gopher://gopherpedia.com/1 Gopherpedia] — Gopher interface for
Wikipedia (Gopher link)
proxied link], [http://gp.ratthing.com/gopherpedia.com by another
* Mark McCahill and Farhad Anklesaria - gopher inventors - explain the
evolution of gopher: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNY9RscP-lI part
1], [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RObkISaq8wc part 2]
All content on Gopherpedia comes from Wikipedia, and is licensed under CC-BY-SA
License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Original Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopher (protocol)