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Gopher was an Internet protocol used for distributed storage of documents.

What is Gopher?

Gopher is an Internet protocol used for distributed storage of documents.

How It Works

Gopher is similar to another Internet protocol, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), because it remotely accesses files over a TCP/IP internetwork such as the Internet. But while an FTP site exists on only one server and there can be many different FTP sites, there is really only one distributed Gopher file system. The Gopher file system is a single collection of all Gopher servers in the world (although private Gopher subnetworks also exist).


Each Gopher server can act as the root of the hierarchical distributed file system. To access a file or document, a person using a Gopher client (a standard Web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer will do) types the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of an accessible Gopher server. For example, gopher:// takes the user to a Gopher server for the University of Minnesota (where Gopher originated). The Gopher file system is presented as a series of folders, each of which can contain:

  • More folders
  • Individual documents
  • Links to other Gopher servers (displayed as folders)

Users then work their way down the “gopher hole” (to use the metaphor) until they locate the document they want, and then they display or download it. They can also use a search tool developed at the University of Nevada called Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Netwide Index to Computerized Archives) to perform keyword searches to locate documents on the worldwide Gopher network.


Gopher was popular in the late 1980s as a mechanism for storing and disseminating information, especially for libraries and universities, but it has fallen out of favor because of the rising popularity of the World Wide Web (WWW). Not many Gopher servers still work, and most of them are not regularly updated with new information.