How to Browse the Gopher Network on Linux

How to Browse the Gopher Network on Linux

While the web rules the modern internet, there was another hypertext protocol that was briefly popular in the early 1990s called Gopher. While it was overtaken by the World Wide Web, it still has a small but active user community that is worth exploring today.

So how can you access Gopher on your Linux device? Let’s find out.

What Is Gopher?

Gopher is a hypertext protocol that was developed for the University of Minnesota and named after its sports team, the Golden Gophers.

The protocol allows authors to organize hypertext into hierarchical menus. The advantage of Gopher in the early ’90s was that clients could be simple and could run across different interfaces, including text terminals when they were still in wide use.

Gopher isn’t only text, but users could read the news, download files, and check weather forecasts like they can on the modern web. Even a virtual reality version was developed.

HTML eventually won out because the University of Minnesota started charging for Gopher servers while Tim Berners-Lee gave the World Wide Web standards away. HTML was also much more flexible in format than the strictly menu-based Gopher and thus easier to author.

Many web browsers of the era supported Gopher anyway, so many users simply migrated to the more popular system.

Despite its relative obscurity, Gopher still has a cult following among users who think modern web design is too bloated. They find uses that didn’t exist, such as “Phlogging,” or creating blogs with Gopher.

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You can explore modern Gopherspace from your Linux machine as well as others since modern browsing tools are cross-platform.

Browsing Gopher in the Linux Terminal

There are several apps you can use to browse Gopher. But we’ll discuss the most prominent ones: Gopher and Lynx. Note that it’s also possible to browse the Gopherspace using a graphical app (discussed later).

With Gopher


Gopher client in Debian XFCE

You can browse Gopher like you might have in 1991 by installing a text-based Gopher browser. One option is the official Gopher client.

To install Gopher on a Debian or Ubuntu system:

sudo apt install gopher

On Arch Linux and its derivatives:

sudo pacman -S gopher

And on Red Hat-based distros:

sudo dnf install gopher

To use it, type “gopher” with the address you want to go to, as you would with a web browser. A good one to try is the Floodgap Gopher page.

gopher gopher.floodgap.com

With Lynx


Lynx client showing Gopher page in Debian terminal

Another option is to use the text-based browser Lynx.

On Debian/Ubuntu, you can use APT to install Lynx:

sudo apt install lynx

To install Lynx on Arch Linux, run:

sudo pacman -S lynx

And on the Red Hat family:

sudo dnf install lynx

Lynx is a better bet because it supports the web as well as Gopher. It also has a more attractive interface. You can access Gopher pages like you were using a web browser, but replace “HTTP” with “gopher” in the URL:

lynx gopher://gopher.floodgap.com

Related: Fun Linux Command-Line Programs You Should Try When Bored

Exploring Gopher in a Graphical Browser


Floodgap Gopher Proxy in Firefox on Debian

Many modern graphical browsers like Firefox and Chrome have dropped support for Gopher since fewer people use it, but you can use Cameron Kaiser’s Floodgap proxy to browse Gopherspace on your browser.

Just navigate to the proxy, click the “Standard” or “Lite” links, and put in your Gopher address. This will work across any web browser on any platform, not just Linux.

Now You Can Explore Gopherspace on Linux

With Gopher, you can get a glimpse of the world as it was before the web. You might think it’s a pre-web curiosity, but it has a lot to offer that might be off the radar for the rest of the internet. If you’re looking to go further and off the beaten path, check out these useful dark web resources.



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