Wednesday, September 17, 2008

one prediction against GOPHER

The following dialog between veterans of Arpanet/Internet is a "proof" that my thinking about the "systemic" issues concerning the Net around the same time (1990) had a sound basis and it was a legitimate problem to think about. For example, using my "model" of the Net,I made the same observation about "gopher", as the veteran.

GOPHER was an interesting system, I got to know it from being a member of the RARE working group on NIR - networked information resources since 1988.
I checked the stats on NSFNET from ISOC Journal "OnTheInternet",
it had very simple interface but the case of "WWW" seemed more promising. As Crocker says
"multimedia is one feature that gopher lacked but soon it obtained such a module".

My "macroscope" focused on the automation features of WWW like its general scheme


a scheme that promised scaling power, other strong features were
the algebraic power of HTML to program resources and later the SGI
mechanism for gatewaying to on-line services. All these made it, in my humble opinion,
an unbeatable recipe.

In fact I did state this publicly to colleagues in the NOC of ARIADNE
my work place at the time.

> From: Jim Thompson

>> Also the word "gopher" appears nowhere in the timeline, although for a

>> couple of years it WAS the Internet...
> No, it wasn't.

While the question of how users perceive(d) the Internet can always get bogged down in the definition of users, metrics, or period of time, the role of gopher was fundamental.

The Arpanet/Internet lived with "anonymous" FTP as its public publishing method for 15 years. As the Internet approached mass- market scale, a better mechanism was needed and various folk experimented with different approaches. For nearly 5 years, gopher dominated.

In 1990, I was giving a half-day Internet introduction to some phone company folk, as part of a week-long seminar at CMU. I included a gopher demonstration, letting the class make selection choices, as we navigated from a page that divided the world into regions, until we finally got down to a page for the Wellington New Zealand Town Council and found a pointer to the Town Council minutes.

At that moment, I finally understood how big an impact the Internet would have. A non-technical group was publishing mundane, non- technical information for non-technical use. If they were doing that then, everyone else would too. And by "everyone" I realized it would be literially everyone in the world.

As the Web started to gain traction later, there was some question which of the two technologies would win. Gopher was far easier to publish, since it took any ol' text file, whereas the Web required specially-created files. On the other hand, the Web was multi-media and it let you give useful information to users with every key-click. With gopher, useful information was only at the leaves, and not the intermediate navigation nodes. No embedded links.


Dave Crocker

Brandenburg InternetWorking