Gopher Novice - Part VII.

Cont. [Gopher Novice - Part VI]

I missed on [Bob Alberti's Gopher Directory] (co-author of Internet Gopher) information about his article from 2011, titled [Internet Gopher: The Bridge to the Web]. Today is time for reading it.

What was the Internet like?

The Internet had by 1991 [...] The quarter million hosts with domain names ending in “.edu” (indicating colleges, universities, and other educational institutions) still outnumbered all others including commercial hosts ending in “.com.”

[...] we put the source code up on the FTP server on (Boombox) and informed colleagues at other institutions about its availability. Remember in those days the only way to retrieve something from the Internet was to know its address in advance, so the only way for information about the availability of Gopher’s source code to spread via Usenet conferencing (Anklesaria F. , 2011), e-mail discussion lists or verbally.

[...] While the Gopher Team wrote all our own code, we received bug reports from the community, discussed feature ideas and worked to integrate with standards and much more. Communication was over e-mail and Usenet first in the alt.gopher newsgroup and later on comp.infosystems.gopher.

[...] Nowadays client-server architecture is ubiquitous, but in 1991 the growth of the Internet (e.g. servers) and the increase in power of the personal computer (clients) had developed to the point where client-server architecture was increasingly feasible.

[...] In order to understand Gopher’s significance and its impact on contemporary computing in 1991, it is important to understand the environment from which it emerged. In 1991, computers were the realm of academics and hobbyists, and the landscape of services and connections was much more fractured and difficult to navigate than it is today. Connectivity was primarily provided by modems with speeds ranging from 300 to 2400 baud (Daxial Communications, 2003). E-mail was granular within institutions to the level of individual departmental mail server – you couldn’t write to “,” and there were no on-line directories. Most interpersonal contact was by reading Usenet, which was an increasingly unwieldy1 database of interest-based forums distributed via NNTP protocol (Kantor & Lapsley, 1986) to a growing number of servers around the Internet.

[...] The primary means of moving files was over File Transfer Protocol (FTP) (Postel, 1980). FTP’s stateful architecture and unusual two-port communications protocol is an artifact of its antiquity. FTP was developed back when there were no personal computers, only mainframe computers and dumb terminals, or maxi-Hosts and TIPs respectively in the original ARPANET design (Edmondson- Yurkanan, 2002). [...] Modern FTP software has addressed these challenges by writing smarter, more powerful client software that would have been impossible back when we were developing Gopher.

So we can saw the picture of the educational institutions which are using the Internet in the old-school way. There are no imagination of pleasures, but hard work with every aspect of communication. Slow connection, limited hardware resources, primary tools and protocols. The Internet where you must know what to do. It could be surprising that the most advanced form of communication provide Usenet. I understand it as self organising people in their spare time, and beyond a dominant influence of serious institutions. The worth saying is also some ban for commercial use of the Internet's public infrastructure.

How the Internet was organised?

[...] Additionally, FTP had no means to refer users to other FTP locations, and this was a critical difference between Gopher and FTP

[...] The overall impact of the Gopher architecture cannot be overstated – abstracted data access and fast performance made Gopher significantly more user-friendly than anything that had yet been seen. And its deliberately lean client-server design allowed for an acceptable user experience even on computers employing connections as slow as 300 baud.

Beyond Usenet, the Internet of 90's was hidden behind of some curtain and tools made it difficult to take advantage of "net". It's good point, I didn't think before, that FTP can't link other FTP. Information can't flow in natural way.

Gopher escape

[...] Gopher dropped like a seed crystal into the supersaturated information solution of the Internet, and over the next two years gained broad and enthusiastic acceptance, particularly among computer experts as well as information scientists (colloquially, “librarians”) who sought to ensure that Gopher facilitated formal information sciences methods and notations (Dalton, 1991). By 1993 Internet Gopher escaped the communities of computer mavens and librarians and emerged into popular culture

[...] Gopher broke through to the popular consciousness following a write-up in the London Guardian in August of 1993 (Flowers, 1993). A LexisNexis search for “Internet Gopher” turns up over a dozen articles in 1993 and 1994 published in such diverse periodicals as the Washington Post (Williams, 1995), The Age (Melbourne) (Watson & Barry, 1995), the Business Times of Singapore (Leong, 1994), and Newsweek (Watson & Barry, 1995).

I'm noting that for further reading. It could be interesting to read articles from 1993-1995. It's the most interesting thing to me to find a way how the average usage of the Internet was in time when Gopher "escaped" from that serious world of educational institutions.

Gopher decline

[...] However, I disagree with the conventional wisdom that the licensing issue was the cause, or even a major cause, of Gopher’s demise. While I agree with Cal Lee that Gopher lost critical “mindshare” over the licensing issue (Lee, 1999), I don’t believe that the licensing controversy was the major factor in Gopher’s demise.

[...] Finally, and most important in my estimation as to why the popularity of Internet Gopher declined, was the introduction in late 1994 of the V.34 28.8K baud modem (Figure 16). This was double the speed of V.33 14.4K baud introduced in 1991 (International Telecommunications Union, 2009). And as the V.34 modems were bundled with booming PC sales, their adoption was rapid. [...] By contrast, Gopher had been written to be extremely speedy: its text-only displays required only a fraction of the bandwidth that a Web page required.

One of the most popular argument against Gopher success is licensing issue. But above explanation appeals to me more. So users can use their powerful home computers, and their speedy modems to do more than everyone could imagine a year before, leaving behind the academic community.

[Gopher Novice - Part VI]

[Bob Alberti's Gopher Directory]

[Internet Gopher: The Bridge to the Web]


@ Sun 12 Sep 2021 08:56:23 PM CEST

tags: #gopher