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Gopher (Search Engine)

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The rodent is at gopher

Gopher is a protocol. It is used to index and search for documents on the Internet. It was designed to be used as a form of anonymous FTP. It is what came before the World Wide Web.

The gopher protocol has some things HTTP-based clients do not have. It is based on menus. An item selected from a menu will either open another menu, or a document.

Because of licensing fees and that the World Wide Web was easier to use, the protocol did not get much use. There are less than 100 gopher servers left.[1] Most of them are run by universities. Most of them are rarely updated except for the ones run by enthusiasts of the protocol. A handful of new servers are set up every year by hobbyists - 25 have been set up and added to Floodgap's list since 1999 and possibly some more that have not been added. Today Gopher exists as an almost forgotten corner of the internet - one can publish email addresses in plaintext without having to worry about spam, and publish large amounts of data without the risk of the server's bandwidth becoming saturated, while at the same time people do still browse the gopher servers regularly.

Some have suggested that the simple interface of Gopher would be a good match for mobile phones and Personal digital assistants (PDAs),[2] but so far, the Web-fixated market prefers Wireless Markup Language (WML)/Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), DoCoMo i-mode, XHTML Basic or other adaptations of HTML and XML. The PyGopherd server, however, provides a built-in WML front-end to Gopher sites served with it.

Many current web-browsers have stopped supporting the gopher protocol, such as Mozilla Firefox.[3]


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