A little note about gopher

Gopher is a protocol designed for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents over the Internet. gopher on wikipedia

So I have been lurking on the gopher pages for about half a year now and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about this protocol and the surrounding comunity.

Gopher is not index save

This is one of the main issues that I have with the way gopher is used by the comunity. Gopher is used to distribute posts that the users would never dream of posting on "clear" html pages. However ALL GOPHER PAGES ARE INDEXED VIA HTML PROXY'S like the floodgap proxy. This means that google and other data collection groups can easily collect your posts and parse them.

Gopher and ssl / encription

Please don't do encryption on gopher. the strength of gopher is that it is so simple it works on the most basic machines ( you can even parse it with the human brain). Like with html encryption will break backwards compatibility.

The only "big" problem I can see with the gopher protocol is that one can not verify the creator of a post. This problem however can be subverted using the same techniques as for e-mail like a pgp signature. Methods like this will enshure that the content will still be readable if the tools for verification are not avalible.

Gopher elitism and html

What I find sad about gopher is how the community often idolizes the gopher protocol. Yes gopher does things a bit different than html but does that mean it is always better? No I don't think so. For instance for sharing multimedia ( blog style ) it think html is better suited because of the embedded media formats and cross page links. This however does have downsides also ( do I want to load all images on loading a page? ) ( how fast can I naviage a linked structure, if I know the links I need to pass to get to the content?) these are the areas where gopher shines and that is why gopher is still used to this day.

However with firefox dropping "propper" browser support for gopher I think the gopher space is more of a novelty than a place non-technical people will browse to get their content, even though it seems the gopher community is growing again! I don't see my sister browsing gopher anytime soon.

Why am I still browsing gopher

The oddity of gopher is that it attracts people that are all interested in some of the same subjects ( retro computing, programming, terminals etc. ) however gopher offers them a platform where they can post about other aspects of their life but still have a common bond. This means that the community has a nice diversity of subjects to read about and there are always technical discussions going on.

The gopher space does not move incredably fast. The post amount is low enough that you can read the posts of your favorite authors and still only have between one or five posts to read on a daily basis.

Gopher is also viewable with almost every device with a diversity of browsers ( or use a html proxy ). I usaly view gopher using the Lynx as I am used to its interface ( I use links2 from time to time ) but when I am traveling I use the android app DiggieDog as it offers a more touch friendly interface.


Some fun gopher links

sdf.org this page features a lot of users from the SDF Public Access UNIX System
circumlunar.space this page features a roleplaying comunity that uses it's universe to give users a place to share their phlogs ( gopher blog )
baud.baby an gopher phloger that is quite invloved with the community