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

Dave Crocker dhc2 at dcrocker.net
Sat Aug 20 15:37:40 PDT 2016

On 8/15/2016 1:35 PM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
> Who, I wonder? I no longer have my copies of The Matrix from that era, but sitting
> at CERN we kept an eye on the growth curves for WAIS, Gopher and WWW and I don't
> recall Gopher being a clear leader.

I don't recall numbers, but I do recall that gopher pre-dated the web, 
by enough to give it a first-mover advantage.  (Most of the other 
efforts at the time were on search, not publishing; at that point 
Anonymous FTP was still deemed sufficiently worthy... sigh.)

Gopher initially had the major advantage of being usable with random 
text files, while the early web only worked with html files.  Hence 
gopher worked with an existing, large base of documents while the web 
did not.

Gopher's long-term disadvantages were that it didn't support other types 
of files and it didn't give content with each key-click, while the web 
could.  That is, the web was multi-media. Also it could do something 
useful each time you clicked on a link, while with gopher you always had 
to walk down a sequence.  Only the terminal node had content.

By the way, gopher taught me what the Internet would be like.  I was 
giving a class about Internet protocols in 1990, in Pittsburgh, and 
included a demo of gopher.

There was a page that gave a list of different parts of the world and I 
asked the class where they wanted to 'go'.  Someone said 'South Pacific' 
so I clicked on that and we saw Australia and New Zealand.  Someone said 
New Zealand so I clicked that.  Then Wellington.

Then things got interesting, because I saw "Town Council", rather than 
reference to something geeky.  So while sitting in Pittsburgh, I pulled 
of the Wellington New Zealand Town Council meeting minutes of the week 

In spite of working on the net for nearly 20 years I hadn't fully 
understood where it would go until that moment:  if that sort of thing 
would be posted, everything would be.

A few years ago I had my first trip to Wellington and gave a 
presentation.  I told them the anecdote and so I got to thank the 
audience for teaching /me/ what the Internet would become.

After the session, a fellow in the audience (John Houlker) came up and 
asked whether I'd like to meet the guy who put those pages up on the net 
in 1990..

I had the great privilege of having dinner that night with John Naylor 
who is quite a delightful fellow.  He'd worked for the city power folk 
back then and thought it quite natural to string a metropolitan area 
network around town using the power lines...



   Dave Crocker
   Brandenburg InternetWorking

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