Gopher protocol: Still undead
March 19, 2007 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Old-style gopher servers are still working Apparently there are 86 hosts still serving the pre-Web gopher:// protocol. (MetaFilter's 2000-era gopher site is still down.)
posted by joeclark (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, is taken.
posted by chrismear at 2:53 PM on March 19, 2007

Aw, gopher... I remember hooking up to the net in college before anyone knew anything. Gopher sites seemed much more accessible than "web" sites in text browsers. Plus, you needed knowledge I didn't have to install winsock and NCSA Mosaic.
posted by ontic at 3:11 PM on March 19, 2007

Haw, I just clicked over here after reading the TidBITS piece. Neat!
posted by mwhybark at 3:38 PM on March 19, 2007

As I said before, gopher just became WAP, but I guess the inventor of it moved to blogging years ago anyway.
posted by mathowie at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2007

From the article:
By 1995, Gopherspace had largely evaporated, thanks to a combination of the University of Minnesota's restrictive and expensive licensing policies (they eventually released Gopher under the open-source GPL license, but years too late) and the wide availability of a better technology.

Nelson laugh.
posted by JHarris at 3:53 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Gopher, Archie, Lynx...those were the days, and Tin for mail too. Now I feel old.
posted by GavinR at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2007

Gopher felt like such an effective way to waste so much time then, and I used to run out of stuff to look at - who knew?

I still use Lynx sometimes. Much, much faster. With tin for reading usenet, and Pine for most personal mail!
posted by dilettante at 4:15 PM on March 19, 2007

Goddamn I miss Gopher some days. Using it 12 odd years ago to find the weather report still beats out 99% of all weather reporting on the web.

*sighs to self and remembers logging into ISCABBS to harass random people and boast of his low user number*

Shout out to those that ever received "Dreams" instead of know who you are.
posted by Muddler at 4:18 PM on March 19, 2007

Forget pine. Real men used mutt.

Real, real men used mh.

Real, real, real men telnetted to ports 25 and 110.
posted by heydanno at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Real, real, real, real, real nutjobs shouted zero's and one's over the phoneline.
posted by Pendragon at 4:31 PM on March 19, 2007 [4 favorites]

Geniuses used GNU Emacs for everything. I wasn't one then either.
posted by davy at 4:35 PM on March 19, 2007

There's some working VeiwMasters around, too, but I'd hesitate before making a MeFi for it.

unless you really want to.
posted by jonmc at 4:45 PM on March 19, 2007

MS disabled gopher client support in IE a long time ago as a quick and dirty fix to a security vulnerability. So if you want to publish something just for the Mozilla crowd, just publish it under gopher. Not only will you not get any IE visitors but you won't get pointless referrer spam traffic, endless badly-written spiders ignoring robots.txt and sucking up your bandwidth for purposes that certainly aren't yours, armies of bots trying to exploit web server vulnerabilities you don't have...

Holy cow, there's nothing but upside, is there? Fuck it, I'm switching to gopher.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:19 PM on March 19, 2007

About 7 years ago I started writing a gopher daemon just for kicks. But then I realized that no one would use it and half of the hiring managers I would interact with for the rest of my career would give me a weird look if I mentioned it during an interview. I should really pick that project back up again because gopher is awesome.
posted by cmonkey at 5:30 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

The gopher protocol was my first link to the captial-I Internet, via a dial-in terminal provided by the local comunity college. I managed to hop around from University to University until I found a telnet gateway, and some bookmarks to various MUDs, most notably, Northern Crossroads, where I wasted a great deal of my adolescence.
posted by ijoshua at 5:31 PM on March 19, 2007

Forget pine. Real men used use mutt.
posted by rajbot at 5:35 PM on March 19, 2007

As with ijoshua, but a half-dozen years older. Not too much time wasted on the gaming, thank goodness.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on March 19, 2007

This is funny. Last night I was surfing around and ended up viewing a list of 25 great internet technologies of the past 25 years and gopher came up on the list. This made me get nostalgic and I visited a few gopher sites. Luckily Firefox has built-in gopher support so it was easy to visit them. Maybe I'll fire up Lynx to get a truly old-school feel.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 6:15 PM on March 19, 2007

Heh. That's basically what I used gopher for too: to steal free internet access from the local library so I could telnet to my university email account. The tricky part was that they didn't let you type in a server address in their client, so you had to follow a convoluted path of 10-15 lihnks to get to a page that would let you go anywhere.
posted by smackfu at 6:15 PM on March 19, 2007

Speaking of pine, some astonishingly large number of people on the UW campus (something like 1 in 5) still use pine. Webpine is also really popular.

Pine is going away in a couple of years, though. Alpine will replace it.
posted by dw at 6:27 PM on March 19, 2007

opher, Archie, Lynx...those were the days, and Tin for mail too. Now I feel old.

tin was usenet, elm for mail. Or even mailx or just telnetting to port 25.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2007

smackfu: I remember having to do that kind of thing. The freenet I belonged blocked telnet connections to all but a few servers, so in order to play on muds I had to first telnet to some sister-freenet. Then I think there was some step, since I still couldn't enter arbitrary URLs, that involved surfing to some helpful guy's website where you could type in an address and it would generate a page with a link you could follow, which was apparently enough to get around their 'security.'

Sure was laggy.
posted by maledictory at 9:18 PM on March 19, 2007

Memories, like the corners of my mind
(insert your favorite unix shell memories)
Like the way we were
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:29 PM on March 19, 2007

Forget pine. Real men used use mutt.

You misplet "elmme" there.
posted by mendel at 9:38 PM on March 19, 2007

It was Pine I used for mail, sorry I forgot that Tin was for Usenet. It has been a long time.

Over a decade....and a lot of brain cells killed in that timeframe.
posted by GavinR at 10:12 PM on March 19, 2007

Been there done that. At one time or another I've used (on a regular basis) elm, pine, mh, nn, tin, rn, trn, lynx & emacs. mh was a trip, the oddest interface I've ever used. Unlike all the others it wasn't a unified shell but a suite of single-purpose programs that you ran from the shell. It also split up your mailspool into bunches of files in your home dir, causing endless headaches on accounts with low quotas.

But as for real men? Real men use netcat.
posted by scalefree at 11:40 PM on March 19, 2007

Oh & I'm surprised nobody's mentioned any of the other failed protocols from that era. archie, a search engine for FTP sites; veronica, that indexed gopher & WAIS, a clunky competitor to the WWW. I remember the mad scramble when someone figured out you could use archie to search across the whole Internet for files named "passwd". Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, that I can tell you.
posted by scalefree at 12:08 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

What's pleasantly surprising is that Firefox on the Mac registers the gopher:// protocol, so picks up on the links in the original article that I clicked on in Safari.

I'm not too sure about Gopher dying in 1995. When I was at university in 93-96, a friend emailed me telling me about how excellent Gopher was. Yes, we had web access, so didn't really need it.

I didn't understand Gopher then and, actually, only understood what it was when I read that article. Imagine that—11 years of ignorance!
posted by humblepigeon at 5:26 AM on March 20, 2007

heydanno: Real, real, real men telnetted to ports 25 and 110.

Heh. I remember the first time I came on here and saw all the "." comments, I instantly thought of telnetting to port 25 and using the period + line break to terminate the message. I still prefer this explanation of the phenomenon.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:25 AM on March 20, 2007

What would archie and veronica have been without jughead?

And nn totally rocked for reading news. By the late 90's, USENET was essentially unreadable without killfiles and spam keyword filters.
posted by ken_zoan at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2007

gopher support should be removed from browsers; poor implementations have been the source of at least one security hole. Remove unnecessary code.

I wonder if any WAIS servers are still operating?
posted by Nelson at 9:51 AM on March 20, 2007

I loved Gopher. I'm still waiting for the big gopher revival.

Hrm. Maybe it's about time.. the current web sucks. :P
posted by drstein at 10:56 AM on March 20, 2007

I was a gopher die hard, mudding (like ijoshua, although I preferred Infinity) and wandering around finding stunning amounts of free cool stuff, like the Holocaust files from Jerusalem and the Weather Underground.

Until I found NASAs picture archives, I couldn't understand why anyone would want slow, crashy, buggy www access. Actually, I'm still not sure.
posted by QIbHom at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2007

nn was so, so good at making it possible to not read all of Usenet. Which, y'know, you could, back in the day.

If only there were an nn for the web...
posted by five fresh fish at 6:50 PM on March 20, 2007

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