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Gopher is an Internet protocol that predates the World Wide Web. Rather than HTML files, Gopher is made up of directories, gophermap files and text files that are downloaded and viewed directly. The gophermap file is the Gopher version of the index.html file. It can display text information and links to other files and/or gophermap files. Content files are just plain text and are displayed as-is.

What I like first about Gopher is that it’s text based. This keeps things deliberately simple and allows the site author to focus on content, not design. Second, Gopher directories have an inherent structure. Unlike websites, which are often a maze of multiple navigation menus, Gopher directories have a very simple hierarchical structure of gophermap files, one for each node in the hierarchy, which link to other gophermap files or directly to content files.

I’ve been experimenting with building a simple version of this site as a Gopher directory hosted on my sdf.org account. That gave me the idea to use a Gopher directory as the source for this site and use that to generate the www version in HTML using a simple script. There are Gopher servers that translate to HTTP dynamically, but SDF doesn’t appear to offer one. Gopher is so simple that such a script would be a relatively trivial affair and would replace the need for Jekyll - as much as I enjoy it.

Just an idea right now… we’ll see if it goes anywhere.

In the meantime, if you want to poke around the Gopher Internet, install the lynx terminal browser and start with lynx gopher://gopher.quux.org:70/ or lynx gopher://gopher.club. If you’re lazy, you can also access that link in a non-Gopher browser by entering the gopher URLs at http://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/gw.