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Surf the Net like it's 1991 with Gopher

The old Gopher protocol is not dead. In fact, it even has Twitter! Here's how to access it.

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Gopher was an information search and retrieval system that became available the same year as the World Wide Web. Developed by the University of Minnesota, it presented information in a standard format that was much less flexible than HTML, but much easier to set up. However, as the need for images and ads, and cascading style sheets took over, Gopher died.

The University of Minnesota open-sourced its Gopher implementation in 2000 and has since shut down its Gopher server. But Gopher is not dead! Enthusiasts keep its spirit alive, claiming it provides a much cleaner and more efficient way of presenting text information than that unruly WWW thing.

Here's how to take a trip down the Gopher hole.

First you need a Gopher Client. Firefox will do. It never eliminated Gopher from its legacy Netscape code, though it could do with some updating. Serious Gopher users add the Overbite project plug-in for a more robust experience.

Then start off by perusing Floodgap.com's index of Gopher servers at gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/1/world You can link from there to Veronica-2, the successor of the original Veronica search engine of days gone by.

Further in, among the Python code and Gopher log entries you'll find a Twitter browser at gopher.floodgap.com/1/fun/twitpher? Put a username after the question mark to see the Twitter stream of just one user.

If you still rail against Mosaic and the graphical Web that ruined the Internet, take a peaceful walk down the safe image-free streets of Gopher. It's kind of like those working pioneer-villages that suck in tourists. It's a trip back in time, but don't forget people actually live there.