WWW FAQs: What is Gopher?

2004-10-12: Gopher is an older distributed information retrieval system, similar to but much simpler than the World Wide Web as we know it. Gopher did not offer a way to create free-form hypertext documents similar to HTML, and its growth was also stunted by attempts to limit the technology to paying customers only. Gopher did offer a very structured and useful approach to retrieving information and searching across many Gopher sites.

Technically, the World Wide Web includes Gopher. Part of Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau's vision for the Web was to incorporate existing technologies for sharing information via the Internet by allowing links to Gopher sites, via gopher:// URLs.

Web browsers supported the Gopher protocol for several years. However, support for Gopher in Microsoft Internet Explorer ended in 2002 and support in other browsers is moribund. Very few Gopher servers survive today. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on Gopher.

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