Gopher (search engine)

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Gopher is a protocol. It was designed for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents over the Internet. Gopher represented an early alternative to 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 concern over possible licensing fees, and the relative flexibility of the World Wide Web, the protocol did not get much use. There are less than 200 gopher servers still actively maintained.[1] Many of the remaining gopher servers are run by individuals. 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 - over 50 have been set up and added to Floodgap's list since 1999. 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 by overuse.

In the early stages of mobile Internet access, some suggested that the simple interface of Gopher would be a good match for mobile phones and Personal digital assistants (PDAs).[2] Web-based solutions also won in the mobile space, with technologies like Wireless Markup Language (WML)/Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), DoCoMo i-mode, XHTML Basic or other adaptations of HTML and XML.

Several server software packages are still maintained and updated for the Gopher protocol. For example, the PyGopherd[3] Gopher server provides a built-in WML front-end to Gopher sites served with it. The Motsognir Gopher server provides PHP5 and Plugin support.[4]

Many current web-browsers have stopped supporting the gopher protocol directly, such as Mozilla Firefox.[5] But 3rd-party addons and plugins are still available to replace browser-based Gopher functionality.

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