Offbeat Internet
Gopher Protocol


Standards Referencing Gopher

rfc1436 .txt - The Internet Gopher Protocol (a distributed document search and retrieval protocol)
rfc1580 .txt - Guide to Network Resource Tools
rfc1594 .txt - Answers to Commonly asked "New Internet User" Questions
rfc1614 .txt - Network Access to Multimedia Information
rfc1689 .txt - Networked Information Retrieval: Tools and Groups
rfc1727 .txt - A Vision of an Integrated Internet Information Service
rfc1738 .txt - Uniform Resource Locators (URL)
rfc1808 .txt - Relative Uniform Resource Locators
rfc2219 .txt - Use of DNS Aliases for Network Services
rfc2396 .txt - Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax
rfc4266 .txt - The gopher URI Scheme

Note: RFC1436 was released as an informational memo. The document specifically states that it "does not specify an Internet standard".

Port Numbers .txt - IANA Reserved Port Numbers = (be aware that the service listed beside the Port number is the Primary user. Servers may use any Port as a secondary user, as long as they don't conflict with a primary user. Clients should therefore allow access through any Port. In the '90s, when it was common for servers to be running on individual machines with separate IP addresses, several legacy Gopher Clients and multi-protocol Browsers were written which improperly hard-coded Gopher server access exclusively through Port 70.)
Character Encoding - For compatibility reasons, Gopher selector strings must always be constructed using the 7-bit "US-ASCII" character encoding scheme. 8-bit character encoding can be used for text displayed in a Client, but the "Latin-1" (ISO-8859-1) character set should be used in preference to the "UTF-8" character set whenever possible.

Enhancement Proposals

Gopher+ = (under the despised licensing cloud, this Web evolution proposal now fell on deaf ears)
+MENU block suggestion
Changes to RFC1738 and RFC1808
Proposed Item-type Changes

Today Gopher is often dismissed as inept, because people are comparing the expanded HTTP protocol to the stagnant Gopher protocol. This however is an "apples to oranges" comparison. One needs only to look back at how HTTP websites and browsers appeared in the early '90s, to realize that if it was not for the Gopher licensing fiasco, it would probably have been Gopher which evolved to be something close to the World Wide Web (both Gopher and HTTP are Web technologies) as we know it today.

To give you an idea, here is a link to a reproduction of the struggling original CERN website, and a link to an emulator of an early website browser (initially fully graphical browsers were not available, and Gopher, before its licensing induced stagnation, was actually on the fast-track to getting them first).

1993 Licensing Fiasco

Gopher-Software-Licensing-Policy ANCIENT .txt = (this policy hung a dark cloud over GopherCon 93)
Gopher-Software-Licensing-Policy NEW .txt = (the lifting of prohibition had little impact, occuring seven years too late)
* GNU General Public License .txt

Peers Condemning the Ancient Gopher License
UMN Justifying their Ancient Gopher License
Retrospection on the disasterous impact of licensing Gopher

Note: Extreme industry backlash towards what were perceived as greedy Gopher protocol license owners, motivated CERN to quickly renounce its own restrictive HTTP protocol license (which thereby produced the initially unexpected effect of rapidly ushering in the http-centric Commercial Internet of today).