What is the Gopher Protocol?

Gopher was a system that existed before the World Wide Web to organize and view files on Internet servers.

What is the Gopher Protocol?

The Gopher Protocol

A Gopher server presents its content as a hierarchically structured file list. With the development of the Web, many databases had become more easily accessible Web sites through Web search engines.

This protocol was developed at the University of Minnesota. Later, Veronica and Jughead explored ways that resources stored in Gopher systems access global directories.


The original Gopher system was launched in 1991 by Mark McCahill, Anklesaria Farhad, Pablo Lindner, Torrey Daniel, Huminsky Adam, Bob, and Alberti of the University of Minnesota.

The main objectives of the system are, as stated in RFC 1436, as the users know, the hierarchical order of files, a simple syntax, a system that can be created quickly and cheaply, and ways to expand the file system, such as searches.

It combined document hierarchies with collections of services, including the WAIS, Archie and Veronica search engines, and gateways to other information systems such as FTP protocol and Usenet.

The general interest in CWIS (Campus-Wide Information Systems) in higher education at the time and the ease with which a Gopher server can be configured to create a CWIS with links to directories and resources from other online sites caused the gopher to expand rapidly.

In 1992, the standard method of finding someone’s email address was to query the Gopher nameserver for their organization’s CCSO entry.

In the late 1990s, Gopher largely stopped expansion. The University of Minnesota announced that it will charge a license fee for the use of the Gopher server application.

Minnesota Üniversitesi daha sonra GNU GPL kapsamında Gopher uygulamasını yeniden lisansladı. Daha sonra, istemci protokolü işlevlerinin bir parçası olarak alan Mosaic gibi Web tarayıcıları tarafından hızla çoğaltıldı.

The University of Minnesota later re-licensed the Gopher application under the GNU GPL. It was then quickly replicated by Web browsers such as Mosaic, which took it as part of client protocol functions.

Gopher has a more rigid structure compared to HTML format on the Web.

Each document has a defined format and the typical user navigates through a single defined server menu system to access a specific document.

This can be very different from the way a typical user navigates documents on the Web.


As part of the design goals, Gopher combined the read-only network of the global network file system. Using Gopher, anything a person could do with data files on a CD-ROM.

The Gopher system consisted of a series of connectable hierarchical menus. The selection of menu items and titles was controlled by the server administrator.

Like a file on the webserver, a file on the Gopher server could be linked to a menu item on another server.

Many servers took advantage of this cross-server connection to provide a directory of other servers that the user could access.

This protocol was first described in RFC 1436 and IANA designated 70 as the TCP port. This protocol is easy to understand, so it’s possible to navigate without using a client.

Some improvements made to increase its use on modern platforms and mobile devices. An Overbite project was launched, involving various browser extensions and modern clients.

In 2010, there were about 100 servers created by Veronica-2. Gopherspace was distributed and used on BitTorrent as in 2007.


Browsers that do not natively support Gopher can still access existing HTTP servers.

It was disabled in Internet Explorer 5 and 6 for Windows in June 2002 due to a patch aimed at fixing a security vulnerability in the browser. In Internet Explorer 7, support was removed at the WinINET level.

If a user wants to enable this protocol, they can do so in the Windows Register.


OverbiteFF for Mozilla Firefox and SeaMonkey enhances Gopher’s browsing.

It includes support for accessing servers and queries from OSCs that is not on port 70 using a whitelist.

It also allows versions of Firefox and SeaMonkey that do not natively support access servers. There are also add-ons for Konqueror and a proxy-based extension for Google Chrome.

Mobile Device Support

It was anticipated that Gopher’s bandwidth interface would be suitable for cell phones and PDAs. However, mobile adaptations of HTML and XML and other modern content had become more popular.

The PyGopherd server provides a WML interface embedded in the sites. A Java ME client is also available for other compatible devices.

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