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

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Sat Aug 20 16:55:18 PDT 2016

On 21/08/2016 11:16, Miles Fidelman wrote:
> I remember doing a few projects based on gopher - back in the early 1990s.
> I kind of wonder if the web would have just been one in a series of file 
> sharing technologies - progressing from FTP, to MIT Tech Info, to 
> Gopher, to the Web, to <something else> - if it had not been for Marc 
> Andreessen (Mosaic) and and Robert McCool (the NCSA deamon that became 
> Apache) at NCSA.

I think another portable graphical browser would have come along soon enough.
Tim's team was fixated on the NeXt for a while, but Unix workstations were
rapidly becoming dominant in academia, so - without taking anything away from
NCSA - somebody else would have done it, IMHO. Very possibly somebody at CERN,
in fact.


> Miles Fidelman
> On 8/20/16 6:37 PM, Dave Crocker wrote:
>> 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
>> before.
>> 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...
>> d/

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