What is Gopher?
Gopher is a highly-structured document retrieval protocol—good at showing you the files you want and need in a speedy, efficient, low overhead manner that skips the hassle of hunting for download links on websites. This means you spend less time getting annoyed, distracted, and tracked, and get on with your work much quicker.
This is my recently-overhauled reference section for Gopher, meant as a clearinghouse of the who, what, how, and why of Gopherspace. I hope you find it useful.
If you're new to Gopher or simply curious, you should start here for the low-down on what Gopher is, its history, and why it's so useful.
- The rise and fall of the Gopher protocol (outgoing link)
- Not my writeup, but excellent nonetheless. A look into the leadup to Gopher's creation, its heyday, how UMN kneecapped it in one conference, and its cult status today. (I should mention that the article's "140 Gopher servers" has more than doubled to about 350 servers since it was written—and Somnolescent's one of them once again.)
- Why Gopher Will Succeed
- A manifesto of sorts of what I feel Gopher is still useful for, even in the present day.
- Structure of a Gopher Menu
- Gopher's menus are so simple, you can browse them without a client if you wanted to. Here's what the source to a Gopher menu looks like.
- Terminology (Maps? Menus? Globbing?)
- An overview of the jargon.
These are pages dedicated to specific Gopher documents of historical relevance, but mirrored and formatted in HTML (since they were in plain text) for ease of reading. Some are canonical RFC memos that codified Gopher's protocol, while others are less formal but no less important milestones in Gopher's technology.
- RFC 1436: The Internet Gopher Protocol
- This is the gold standard of Gopher reference documents, the memo that described the protocol and its developer's intents.
- RFC 4266: The gopher URI Scheme
- Similar to the above, a formatted mirror of RFC 4266, which codifies Gopher and Gopher+'s URI scheme.
- Gopher+: Upward compatible enhancements to the Internet Gopher protocol
- The original Gopher team's specification for Gopher+, an upgraded Gopher protocol for listing metadata with selectors. While the original text wasn't officially an RFC, it has a very similar structure to it. Given how scarce information on Gopher+ is, I'm mirroring it too.
Users need special software to access Gopherspace. Some of this software is still useful, recommended, or even maintained, while others are thoroughly obsolete. Like trying out web browsers, much of the fun of Gopherspace is trying out clients—try a bunch!
(The majority of this section consists of reviews—simply my opinions with download links for the curious. Your mileage may vary.)
- What to Look for in a Gopher Client
- A list of must-haves and must-considers that you should keep in mind as you try out clients.
- Web/Gopher Clients
- As they share similar paradigms, web browsers used to fully support Gopher alongside HTTP. This page explores both browser clients and extensions for browsers for accessing Gopher servers.
- Standalone Gopher Clients
- Of course, standalone Gopher clients also exist, including apps for phones and tablets. Here's my reviews of those.
Many of Gopher's users are just as interested in maintaining their own space on the network. If that's you, these pages are what you need to know and what snags you might encounter in digging your own Gopherhole.
.link, and Gophermaps)