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According to RFC 1436 (The Internet Gopher Protocol, March 1993), a gopher is a burrowing mammal or an office worker that fetches or delivers documents for office staff. All of these describe the Gopher protocol, which is a system that assists users in searching and retrieving documents on distributed systems. Gopher became necessary in the early days of the hypertext Internet because of the number of documents that were being published in campus and research environments. These documents were stored not in one place, but in many computers-even desktop computers connected to the Internet.
Gopher allows users to search for keywords across multiple documents on multiple systems (it is distributed). The results are displayed as a series of nested menus that looks similar to the organization of a directory with subdirectories and files. Users can browse this list and explore, meaning that they can select a document to immediately see its contents.
Gopher supports gateways to other information systems such as the Web, WAIS, Archie, and WHOIS. Gopher is often the preferred method for navigating through files in an FTP server.
While RFC 1436 describes the Gopher system in detail, RFC 1580 (Guide to Network Resource Tools, March 1994) provides a more concise description of how users can use Gopher and take advantage of its capabilities. This RFC also lists sites where the Gopher software can be obtained for free.
Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.