Gopher is a protocol for retrieving and organizing files on the Internet, developed at the University of Minnesota in 1991. It is a text-based system that operates as an alternative to the World Wide Web, with hierarchical menus. The popularity of Gopher significantly declined with the rise of the graphical web and is now considered obsolete.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Gopher” is: /ˈɡoʊfər/

Key Takeaways

  1. Gopher is a text-based information retrieval protocol that predates the World Wide Web, making it easier to navigate and search for information over the Internet.
  2. It uses a simple hierarchical structure, consisting of menus and documents, to present information in a user-friendly format, unlike the hyperlink-based structure of the web.
  3. Although Gopher has declined in usage due to the rise of the World Wide Web, it still has a niche community that appreciates its simplicity, privacy, and nostalgic value.


The technology term ‘Gopher’ is important because it played a crucial role in the early development of the internet during the 1990s.

Gopher is a text-based information retrieval system, which allowed users to navigate through hierarchical menus and access documents on remote servers.

Developed at the University of Minnesota, it predates the World Wide Web and was once a widely used internet protocol.

Gopher helped pave the way for more sophisticated and user-friendly systems like the Web, demonstrating the potential for sharing information online and contributing to the foundational structure of the modern internet.

Though it has since been largely supplanted by the Web, Gopher’s significance lies in its pioneering role in shaping the landscape of internet-based services.


Gopher, a distributed information retrieval system, was developed at the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s as a precursor to the World Wide Web. Its primary purpose was to enable users to easily locate and access documents, files, and services on remote computers using a hierarchical directory structure.

Gopher was designed to efficiently traverse and browse through the vast array of online resources by means of a simple, text-based user interface. This innovative system stood out for its ability to deliver a wide range of content types, including text, images, and multimedia files, which could be navigated with minimal technical knowledge.

In its heyday, Gopher’s popularity stemmed from its inherent simplicity and user-friendly design, which significantly lowered the barriers to entry for users seeking to access the burgeoning world of online content. The system allowed users to search for information and navigate through menu-based directories, while Gopher servers shared a standardized index structure, facilitating interconnectivity and cross-referencing among various educational institutions and organizations.

Despite being largely overshadowed by the advent of the modern web and the rise of the HTTP protocol, Gopher remains a testament to the early efforts of the technology community to harness the power of the internet for information sharing and collaboration.

Examples of Gopher

Gopher is a communications protocol used for accessing, searching, and retrieving documents over the Internet. It was developed at the University of Minnesota and gained popularity in the early 1990s before being largely supplanted by the World Wide Web. Here are three real-world examples of Gopher technology:

University of Minnesota Gopher Server:The Gopher server was initially designed and created at the University of Minnesota in

The primary purpose of this system was to serve as a document retrieval system for the university’s campus-wide information system. It allowed for the organization and easy access to various information resources, including course materials, research databases, library services, and other academic resources.

Veronica Search Engine:One of the first search engines ever developed, the Veronica search engine was specifically designed to index and search the Gopher protocol-based servers. It enabled users to search for specific files and resources across a myriad of Gopher servers worldwide. Veronica provided users with a simple interface to enter their search query and provided a list of Gopher servers hosting the requested information.

Libraries and Information Centers:In the early 1990s, many libraries and information centers adopted Gopher as a means to provide remote access to their catalogs and resources. The Gopher protocol allowed for the easy organization of information hierarchies, making it simple for users to navigate and find materials in library catalogs and other reference databases. Several prominent libraries, such as the Library of Congress and the British Library, utilized Gopher servers to provide users with access to a wide range of resources.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gopher

What is Gopher?

Gopher is a protocol used for retrieving information and documents from remote servers, which predates the World Wide Web. It was developed at the University of Minnesota in the early 1990s as a simple and efficient way to browse and retrieve information from the internet.

How does Gopher differ from the World Wide Web?

Gopher is a text-based protocol whereas the World Wide Web is based on HTML, a hypertext markup language that enables rich multimedia content. Gopher is menu-driven—users navigate through directories and subdirectories to access information. In contrast, the World Wide Web allows for hyperlinking, making it possible to jump from one document to another with a single click.

Why did Gopher lose popularity over time?

Gopher’s popularity declined in the mid-1990s, primarily due to the rise and dominance of the World Wide Web. While Gopher’s text-based, menu-driven system was easy to use and efficient, the World Wide Web’s graphical interface and hypertext capabilities were more engaging and user-friendly. The release of the Mosaic web browser in 1993 also played a pivotal role in accelerating the transition from Gopher to the World Wide Web.

Are there any gopher servers still in use today?

Yes, Gopher servers still exist, although their numbers have declined significantly compared to their peak in the 1990s. Some Gopher servers are maintained by enthusiasts and contain a wealth of historical documents and archived information. Many servers are dedicated to preserving the Gopher protocol and its heritage.

How can one access the Gopher network today?

While most modern web browsers no longer support the Gopher protocol, there are still several ways to access Gopher servers. Third-party plug-ins and extensions can be installed to enable Gopher support in web browsers like Firefox and Chrome. Alternatively, standalone Gopher clients can be downloaded and installed on your computer or mobile device, such as Overbite for Android or Gopher Client for iOS.

Related Technology Terms

  • Gopher Protocol
  • Gopher Client
  • Gopher Server
  • Selector Strings
  • Gopher menus

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