If social is just hype, why aren't we still using Gopher?

2012-10-19

Are you old enough to remember Gopher?

It appeared just before the World Wide Web (WWW) was invented and provided a lightweight, text and folder approach to navigating information repositories (hosted on a Gopher server).

Gopher screenshot

In an Ars Technica piece, Nate Anderson described Gopher as:

"There was no decorative markup for menu pages, which all looked basically (and boringly) the same; on the other hand, gopher was quick and consistent."

But I can imagine people rallying against the hype of the World Wide Web at that time - I mean who needs inline graphics and the potential for user-generated content when Gopher provided such an effective and productive interface?

Surely this would be fantastic for intranets, since:

"'Gopher is a mind-set on making structure out of chaos,' says [Cameron Kaiser, a Gopher enthusiast]"

So with all this focus on social, perhaps we should dump the hype and return to simpler times?

In 2009, Robert Topolski, chief technologist of the Open Technology Initiative, suggested that:

"network administrators at the time preferred a streamlined text-only internet service, says Topolski, using something called the Gopher protocol.

He suggested that if those administrators had had access to data filtering technology, like that becoming popular with companies and governments today, they would have used it to exclude Berners-Lee's invention, and kill off the World Wide Web."

Some people argue that Gopher failed when the University of Minnesota announced it would start charging license fees, where as the WWW protocol and servers remained free.

If you are keen to explore Gopher for the first time (or maybe again?), try the Overbite Firefox plugin.

Then let me know, do you prefer Web 2.0 or Gopher+?

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