[ih] Fwd: [Dewayne-Net] The Rise and Fall of the Gopher Protocol

Joly MacFie joly at punkcast.com
Mon Aug 15 11:21:46 PDT 2016

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From: Hendricks Dewayne <dewayne at warpspeed.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 9:32 AM
Subject: [Dewayne-Net] The Rise and Fall of the Gopher Protocol
To: Multiple recipients of Dewayne-Net <dewayne-net at warpspeed.com>

The Rise and Fall of the Gopher Protocol
By Tim Gihring
Aug 11 2016

It was mid-March 1992, and Mark McCahill had never been to San Diego
before. Back home in Minneapolis, the skies had been dumping snow for six
months, and would keep at it for several more weeks. McCahill checked into
the Hyatt Islandia, an 18-story high-rise hotel overlooking Mission Bay.
“There were palm trees,” he recalls. “Boy, was it nice.”

McCahill was then in his mid-30s and managing the Microcomputer Center at
the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, which facilitated the emerging use
of personal  computers on campus. He and Farhad Anklesaria, a programmer in
the center, had been invited to address the 23rd Internet Engineering Task
Force (IETF), an elite convocation of academics and government officials
from around the world who were literally deciding how the internet should

“The gods of the internet,” McCahill says, though in other circles they
would have gone unnoticed. In his memoirs, another internet pioneer, Tim
Berners-Lee, describes these gatherings as “people in T-shirts and jeans,
and at times no footwear. They would meet in different small rooms and talk

The internet then, as now, was a vast array of information stored in random
computers around the world, only there was no easy or consistent access. It
was difficult even to discover what was out there — there were no good
search engines. The most popular protocol, or method of retrieving
information from another computer, was FTP (file transfer protocol), the
primitive, labor-intensive equivalent of knocking on someone’s door and
asking if you could carry away his piano.

The IETF had been convening since 1986 to iron out these issues, which had
prevented the internet from becoming the “Intergalactic Network” its
originators had foreseen, instead remaining the limited domain of
physicists and the military. But this meeting felt different. For the first
time, the internet seemed on the verge of going public.

On March 18, in a conference room of the hotel, Berners-Lee presented one
possible breakthrough: the World Wide Web. It was evening. Many of the 530
conference attendees had already gone to the bar or to dinner. To the
curious who stayed behind, Berners-Lee explained that the Web could be used
to connect all the information on the internet through hyperlinks. You
could click on a word or a phrase in a document and immediately retrieve a
related document, click again on a phrase in that document, and so on. It
acted like a web laid over the internet, so you could spider from one
source of information to another on nearly invisible threads.

Two other programs with the potential to expand access to the internet —
WAIS and Prospero — were discussed in the same session. In the reports of
people who saw the presentation, the Web did not come across as the best of
them, or even as particularly promising.

The next day, in the light of the afternoon, McCahill and Anklesaria
presented the Internet Gopher. It was simple enough to explain: With
minimal computer knowledge, you could download an interface — the Gopher —
and begin searching the internet, retrieving information linked to it from
anywhere in the world. It was like the Web but more straightforward, and it
was already working.

In fact, most attendees needed little introduction to Gopher — the software
had been out for months. It was the developers they were curious about, the
Minnesotans who had created the first popular means of accessing the
internet. “People we’d never met were telling us how they were using our
stuff and adding things to it,” McCahill says. “We had no idea how big
Gopher was going to be until we experienced this firsthand and realized
that growth could be exponential for a while.”

In the years that followed, the future seemed obvious. The number of Gopher
users expanded at orders of magnitude more than the World Wide Web. Gopher
developers held gatherings around the country, called GopherCons, and
issued a Gopher T-shirt — worn by MTV veejay Adam Curry when he announced
the network’s Gopher site. The White House revealed its Gopher site on Good
Morning America. In the race to rule the internet, one observer noted,
“Gopher seems to have won out.”


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Joly MacFie  218 565 9365 Skype:punkcast
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