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

Brian E Carpenter brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com
Sat Aug 20 18:31:15 PDT 2016

On 21/08/2016 12:12, Miles Fidelman wrote:
> On 8/20/16 7:55 PM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
>> 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.
> Well, sure.  But would it have been based on HTML & HTTP?  What if UMich 
> had open-sourced Gopher (which, I seem to recall, had a graphic browser 
> at one point).  Or would someone have taken a next step?
> Just a hypothetical, of course.

Don't overlook the main "defect" of the web: by design it was flat, with
anything pointing to anything, and no mandatory dependencies. In fact, hypertext
specialists thought it was broken; distributed systems designers thought it
was broken. I suppose gopher was the same. This flatness actually made deployment
a great deal easier. But IMHO the main point was that CERN placed the original code
in the public domain, a few months before Mosaic was released.
(Open source really wasn't so much of a thing in 1993. Most CERN code went under the
CERN Program Library licence, which was pretty flexible.)


More information about the Internet-history mailing list