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posted by n1 on Saturday August 13 2016, @06:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-could-have-been dept.

Right before HTTP took off in the early 1990's, there was Gopher and for a while it, too, was growing exponentially. It was fast and hosted text, source code, graphics, and any number of other types of files, just not all mixed together in one and the same document. For a while it was winning out over HTTP and making grounds against FTP. But that changed eventually and the rest is history. The MinnPost goes a bit into the history of Gopher with the Rise and Fall of the Gopher Protocol.


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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @08:56AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @08:56AM (#387423)

    HyperCard had everything in 1987: stacks of cards with text fields and buttons and images and a scripting language (HyperTalk) eight years before JavaScript. Except, HyperCard stacks were stored in local files instead of network servers.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by stormwyrm on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:12AM

    by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:12AM (#387428) Journal

    I came online at the tail end of all this, in late 1994 just as I got into college, and had briefly used Gopher just to see what it was. I never knew the back story though, until today. This, I think, is what ultimately killed Gopher:

    Eventually, though, the U did want some money — for itself. At GopherCon ’93, Yen announced that for-profit Gopher users would need to pay the U a licensing fee: hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the size and nature of their business. Many users felt betrayed. In the open-source computing spirit of the day, they had contributed code to Gopher, helping the team keep up with the times. Now they were being asked to pony up.

    For a while, the U threatened to get rid of them altogether, a bid to outsource the university’s computer work, provoking one programmer to bug a computer in Morrill Hall, the U’s administrative center, so the team could listen in on discussions.

    Asking for a contribution seemed reasonable. When it backfired, the team posted a defensive letter to Gopher users in March 1993: “… There has been a lot of hysteria, misinformation, and rumor floating around. … In a time where we are having budgets slashed, it is impossible to justify continued (increasing) resources being allocated to Gopher development unless some good things result for the University of Minnesota. This is a fact of life. … Before you go off and flame once more, ask yourself if you want to get YOUR particular server going with as little fuss and expense as possible ... or if you just want to stir up the soup.”

    If you want the world to use your system, you had better not put roadblocks like that in the way. I take it the software wasn't Free/Open Source the way we understand it today. If they'd put all the Gopher software on something like the GPL or BSD license and kept those six guys managing the development the way Linus Torvalds seemed to be doing at around that era, then maybe the Web might never have gained the dominance it has today. In contrast the Tim Berners-Lee's original CERN HTTPD was public domain software (later under the MIT/X11 License) as was the original WorldWideWeb/Nexus browser that ran on NeXT.

    --
    The right to believe whatever you want does not mean that whatever you want to believe is right.
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:37AM (#387435)

      Bill Gates became the world's richest man by selling a proprietary operating system that enjoys market dominance today.

      You're full of shit, guy.

      • (Score: 2) by stormwyrm on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:49AM

        by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:49AM (#387438) Journal
        And he got his start in a world without networks. You are equally full of shit.
        --
        The right to believe whatever you want does not mean that whatever you want to believe is right.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:54AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:54AM (#387440)

          Maybe so, but at least I recognize that FOSS does not make success. Luck makes success. Torvalds is a lucky asshole who wrote a kernel "for fun" not intending to do something "big and professional like GNU." And then look what happened to GNU as all the young trendy college students of the day flipped off old hippie RMS to use Linux instead.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by stormwyrm on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:29AM

            by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:29AM (#387451) Journal

            For software like Gopher that is meant to run on networks, being open is a necessary (although certainly not a sufficient) condition for success. Making a networked system proprietary is a recipe for a niche protocol at best. If the Gopher guys had opened their software then perhaps that they might not have needed to worry overmuch about funding for Gopher development as they did at the time, and their protocol would have been the dominant one and HTTP the historical curiosity.

            And by the way, Microsoft partly gained the dominance that they achieved by for a time turning a blind eye to unauthorised copying of their software: "Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade." -- Bill Gates, sometime in 1998. So even they created a quasi-open system of sorts to make sure that their system became de facto standard. If they had clamped down on unauthorised copying as heavily as the law would have permitted them to do, then the face of computing might well be very different.

            --
            The right to believe whatever you want does not mean that whatever you want to believe is right.
            • (Score: 2, Informative) by stormwyrm on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:42AM

              by stormwyrm (717) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:42AM (#387453) Journal
              You see this even in the landscape of mobile OSes. The open alternative, Android, has a hold on around 80% of worldwide market share, and is still climbing. Apple's iOS on the other hand has had almost flat market share in the 20% range and is shrinking.
              --
              The right to believe whatever you want does not mean that whatever you want to believe is right.
          • (Score: 1) by tbuskey on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:21PM

            by tbuskey (6127) on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:21PM (#387470)

            Maybe so, but at least I recognize that FOSS does not make success. Luck makes success. Torvalds is a lucky asshole who wrote a kernel "for fun" not intending to do something "big and professional like GNU." And then look what happened to GNU as all the young trendy college students of the day flipped off old hippie RMS to use Linux instead.

            As one of those students at the time, I was more pragmatic. I had DOS and MacOS 7. Sometimes Windows 3.1. I wanted to use Unix tools. Some had been ported to DOS (the GNUish tools) or there were lookalikes like freemacs, elvis, microemacs, shells, etc that had limitations (64k of text/data) or didn't work like the real versions. I had Minix, but that couldn't run real emacs and had the same limits due to the 64k I&D memory model.

            386BSD from the Jolitzes came out & was documented in Dr. Dobbs. I tried that but it wouldn't boot on my system. So I tried Linux and it worked. Emacs and all the tools ran on my 8mb systems. If I had waited, maybe I would've tried FreeBSD, but it was too late. Torvalds was lucky.

            • (Score: 1) by Francis on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:10PM

              by Francis (5544) on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:10PM (#387508)

              Not really. Linux enthusiasts went out of their way to promote the crap out of the system. They also spread a ton of FUD during AT&T's lawsuit against BSDi in an effort to scare people away from using BSD.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @05:52PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @05:52PM (#387565)

            as all the young trendy college students of the day flipped off old hippie RMS to use Linux instead.

            Instead? Obviously you know nothing about Linux, RMS, GNU or WTF and hippies. Are you a young and non-trendy college student?

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @06:59PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @06:59PM (#387581)

              I was a non-trendy college student when GNU Hurd was new. I installed the Hurd on a top of the line Pentium II. I especially liked the idea of running anonymous processes or processes with multiple user ids, because I never liked Unix groups. And I thought GNU was going to be great, as soon as more than a few people started using it. But nobody did. WTF dude, they said, you should use Linux, because Linux is better at everything all the time. Linux is the shit and nothing beats it. Linux, Linux, Linux, Linux! Even RMS gave up and realized that GNU would never be finished because the Linux trolls took over.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:05PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:05PM (#387467)

        Actually, the reason for his success was the UNIX vendors considered workspace OS too niche to get really invested in them, and everybody else wasn't good enough yet, or not marketable enough. This was also one of the reasons Linus wrote his OS -- a machine supplied with an installed UNIX was about 7000$, and the bare metal cost about 2000$. Billy G was either extremely good at predicting the future, or just plain old lucky. His products were the most cost-effective for the time, which allowed market dominance. Once achieved, market dominance is not surprisingly easy to maintain: drivers for devices are written for You by vendors because users demand it. Similarly, software is written because of demand, and more software attracts more users. This allows the OS to become a standard, which demands compliance from others.
        One could similarly argue for the success of Linux in contrast to Hurd. It's not about what's best, but what becomes popular fastest -- and that one becomes the best.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @02:18PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @02:18PM (#387485)

          The problem with it is that even after many years you still can't build the system on itself. From time to time I give it a try. Last check was a year ago, one of the most important software for it (glibc, which is even GNU software) can't be build on GNU/Hurd without using external patches (which are hard to find in all the outdated documentation).

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:05PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:05PM (#387582)

            It's GNU Hurd and it's GNU/Linux because GNU Hurd is genuine GNU software and Linux is not GNU.

            The reason the Hurd has problems after all these years is all the people who could have worked on it chose Linux instead, and the work never got done.

            • (Score: 2) by Marand on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:36PM

              by Marand (1081) on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:36PM (#387640) Journal

              The reason the Hurd has problems after all these years is all the people who could have worked on it chose Linux instead, and the work never got done.

              That's a popular excuse, but according to Hurd's own history page [gnu.org], work on choosing or creating a GNU-approved kernel started back in 1986. A barely functional Linux didn't appear until late 1991, five years later. In that time, it went from "we'll use TRIX" to BSD 4.4-Lite [groklaw.net] before RMS decided Mach was the only option. (Also of note is that trend continued after Linux's existence, as well, with multiple attempts at using different kernels in place of Mach over the years since.)

              It's easy to blame Linux, but if the GNU folks had just chosen something, anything, and started working instead of five years of design-by-committee, they probably would have been the ones with the developer effort and Linux would be the also-ran. Someone [wikipedia.org] made a kernel from ground-up in a fraction of the time it took the GNU folks to just make a decision and start hacking.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 14 2016, @03:03AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 14 2016, @03:03AM (#387699)

          His products were the most cost-effective for the time, which allowed market dominance

          This was more true than anyone here cares to admit. At the time I could outfit a Mac dev for 25-30k. Full stack dev env. Apple thought a lot of its SDK, it wasnt bad but not terribly great ether. Unix (Sun, SGI, HP)? 30k+ usually with some sort of large yearly license attached and the SDK is a bit obtuse sometimes. Linux was nowhere near ready. BSD was still quasi legal and no one was really sure if you could use it or not, but free and basically HW cost. No one wanted to chance it. A Win/DOS box 3k tops. Full stack including MSDN and dev tools and a semi decent SDK that was fairly easy to understand. Everyone and their brother had one so the market was huge. That is all in 1995 dollars.

          It has totally inverted. Linux and BSD are very free and cheap to setup. You can get a dev up and running for less than 200-500 bucks and they can be very productive. 2kish if you want them to have a mac, but not worth quibbling over as it long term is peanuts. Many devs use macs because they can jump between all the envs easily that they need to, and Apple cleaned up its dev env to actually be nice. Its also why the dev tools on MS are basically free now. Though they screwed up and yanked the trial OS software for devs.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:00PM (#387506)

      It's funny how the reaction of the Univ. of Minnesota brass to "their" viral Internet software was pretty much the same as how Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champage reacted when the developers of the Mosaic web browser left to from Netscape (orig. Mosaic Computer Corporation).

      Hey, these kids were educated in our classrooms and developed this software using our equipment. It doesn't matter that they did it on their own time and initiative. IT'S UNIVERSITY PROPERTY!

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:28AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:28AM (#387434)

    You really don't want to try explaining the name "Gopher" to the team of Indian coders when they come to take your job. See, Indians speak English, but the gopher is an animal indigenous to North America. Indians have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, because there are no gophers in India. Which is really funny because as an American I know exactly what an elephant is, even though elephants are indigenous to India. And I'll take that useless knowledge to my pauper's grave!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @02:11PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @02:11PM (#387483)

      Not sure why this got flagged 'Interesting', as it seems more like a racist flame bait. In the process you seem to confirm an 'Murican stereotype that the rest of the world has about 'Muricans.

      I'm from Europe and we don't have gophers (or elephants), but I know from both what they are.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:21PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:21PM (#387513)

      You might know what an elephant is. But you don't know what a jird is.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:36PM (#387518)

      If it had been developed at Oregon State, we'd have had the Beaver protocol.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @10:19PM (#387636)

      You don't really need know what a gopher is to use Gopher, much like you don't need to know what Soylent is to use this site.

      With that said, trying explain even the simpliest of concepts to Indians is often futile.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:05PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Saturday August 13 2016, @12:05PM (#387466) Homepage Journal

    It's like gopher only worse, it only works on windows and it hosts MS Office documents.

    AMCC's President Hooshman Kambiz published what he referred to as a "blog". It was a PDF document published on the company sharepoint.

    One can even get a job as a Sharepoint Programmer. Maybe if I drank the Redmond Kool-Ade I could get such a job too.

    --
    Donate To Soggy Jobs [soggy.jobs]
  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Saturday August 13 2016, @01:35PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Saturday August 13 2016, @01:35PM (#387481) Homepage Journal

    I always had a love for the gopher protocol and the way it always was absurdly fast. I actually wrote part of a gopher interface to SN in rehash to the point it could render the main page, but never got farther than that mostly due to time, but for a brief period, gopher://dev.soylentnewns.org [soylentnewns.org] existed. Maybe one of these days I'll actually finish it.

    --
    Still always moving
    • (Score: 2) by Scruffy Beard 2 on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:10PM

      by Scruffy Beard 2 (6030) on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:10PM (#387509)

      When I was shopping for web-hosts, I was disheartened by the number that appeared to ban gopher.

      Of course the cheap ones mandating a "normal website" probably don't support it anyway.

      Every major browser has now dropped support. Lynx still works.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:22PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:22PM (#387588)

        You don't want web hosting for gopher, fool. You want VPS hosting, then you can do whatever.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by NCommander on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:29PM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Saturday August 13 2016, @07:29PM (#387591) Homepage Journal

        SDF [sdf.org] offers gopher hosting. I believe you can run mkgopher as a free account. Here's the tutorial doc [sdf.org]

        --
        Still always moving
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @08:01PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @08:01PM (#387606)

          create a directory in your $HOME called "gopher"

          OK.

          cd; mkdir gopher; php -S 0.0.0.0:7070 -t gopher/

          Oops.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by AthanasiusKircher on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:18PM

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 13 2016, @03:18PM (#387511) Journal

    Wow, a lot of nostalgia here. Two things stood out to me from the article in particular:

    Some team members dreamed of fortune to go with their fame. But the internet was not yet open for business. It had been built on dot-mil and dot-edu, on public funds. Programmers shared source code; if you needed something, someone gave it to you. A dot-com address was considered crass. It was “as though all of TV was PBS,” Lindner says. “No commercials.”

    In today's revenue-obsessed "maximize your clicks!" ad-ridden nightmare of the WWW, it's so refreshing to remember what things were like back in the 1990s, when all there was was content. It may have been good or bad, but it was primarily about the content.

    McCahill pushed for a full-text search engine — something we now take for granted — and borrowed the gist of one from a computer system called NeXT, which had recently been invented by Steve Jobs.

    Actually, I don't take a "full-text search engine" for granted anymore these days. Most search engines use such complex algorithms to "make search easier" for idiots that it's frequently impossible to search the actual full-text anymore. And that's even if you get past all the "helpful" autocorrect features which actually take what I correctly typed and make it wrong.

    Google, despite still having the best results for most things, is a true pain in the neck in this regard. And no, before someone chimes in with a helpful suggestion about using "verbatim," verbatim search fails to bring up all relevant results in all sorts of cases (and sometimes appears to bring up results where the word or phrase aren't present). You'll generally get what seems to be an arbitrary subset of all the possible results that should come up with a "verbatim" search (if it worked the way it claims). Search the Google product forums, and you'll see plenty of discussion about this problem.

    (FYI, for those who actually want to try to approximate full-text search on Google, "verbatim" is quite buggy, and the "+" operator was deprecated years ago for those of you still trying to use it. Your best bet is to try "intext:" or "allintext:" operators, but even those fail to bring up consistent results. Most people these days just have given up on using search the way you used to back in the 1990s, where you could actually isolate a handful of documents or even a single document by just finding a short string of unique words. I tend to search for fairly obscure things when doing research, and I try to use search engines like this since it's the most efficient way to find stuff, but Google is hopelessly broken for that now. Heck, try a Google Books search and restrict by dates. Depending on the exact date range you choose, you'll get different verbatim results for the same years, e.g., 1900-1910 and 1900-1920 will bring up different results for the period of 1900-1910. Almost all the Google operators behave in weird buggy ways these days, though you only tend to see it when you search for something so specific that only a few documents fit the bill. There's just no way to do a convenient "full-text search" anymore in Google and guarantee consistent results.)

    • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:46PM

      by darkfeline (1030) on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:46PM (#387631) Homepage

      I think you're also taking modern web search engines for granted. If you really did a "full-text" web search, you'd get back petabytes of junk. The "smart" searching does get in the way sometimes, but a dumb text search would just give you billions of websites hawking Vigra. I'm not even joking. Modern search engine know to ignore that, and the presence of web spam has disappeared for most people, but all it takes is stepping outside of the comfort of modern search to land you in a sea of Vigra ads.

      And I'm misspelling Vigra because SN's spam filter is shitty. But just like modern search engines, I'm sure that inconvenience keeps out a ton of shit.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:59PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13 2016, @09:59PM (#387633)

        Don't buy Vi­agra from my site, because I don't sell Vi­agra.

      • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Saturday August 13 2016, @11:09PM

        by Geotti (1146) on Saturday August 13 2016, @11:09PM (#387645) Journal

        The "smart" searching does get in the way sometimes, but a dumb text search would just give you billions of websites hawking Vigra.

        It seems like your search-fu is below average. Would you like to enroll in an introductory course on boolean logic?

        • (Score: 2, Informative) by canopic jug on Sunday August 14 2016, @01:24PM

          by canopic jug (3949) on Sunday August 14 2016, @01:24PM (#387846)

          It seems like your search-fu is below average. Would you like to enroll in an introductory course on boolean logic?

          Search engines don't do that any more. That's one of AthanasiusKircher 's points about search engines nowadays. If you dig around on the search interface for any given search engine, you can usually find one or two clicks away the details about what is still working. But boolean, proximity, and patterns are usually not supported any more.

          --
          Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
          • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Monday August 15 2016, @04:33PM

            by Geotti (1146) on Monday August 15 2016, @04:33PM (#388247) Journal

            Right.

            Le'ts recap while simplifying:

            - GP wants "dumb" search engines back

            - darkfeline says: "If you really did a "full-text" web search, you'd get back petabytes of junk. "

            - I make the point that using specific operands with "dumb" search engines would let you avoid the petabytes of junk.

            (Whoever modded your post informative, when the whole discussion is exactly about being able to do proper searches again and not the crippled, autosuggested BS of today's search engines (Google in particular, of course).)