Back in 1992, when "yahoo" was something cowboys yelled and "ebay" was just pig Latin, the University of Minnesota developed a new way of looking at data on the Internet. Their protocol, called "gopher" after the UMN mascot, allowed archivists to present the mishmash of information in a standard format, and enabled readers to navigate documents on a world of servers using a simple visual interface.
For a while, it seemed as if gopher might open the Internet up to the nontechnical masses and usher in a new era of online communication. It very well might have, if the Web hadn't come along and done it instead.
Mention gopher to a newcomer to the Web and you might get a blank stare. Mention it to an old-timer and you're likely to see a nostalgic smile. But to a community of developers and enthusiasts, gopher is alive and kicking. And if they have their way, it will have a healthy future.
According to a list on Floodgap.com, over 250 active gopher servers are currently online, serving documents ranging from lawyer jokes to the text of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill. Almost half these servers are affiliated with American colleges and universities, but servers are also located on every continent but Africa and Antarctica.