Lost technology – Veronica, the Gopher Search Engine

Just found this – a Gopher search engine. The Gopher protocol itself contains a built in search mechanism.
Here’s how it works:-

gopher://hal3000.cx:2347/7
I’ve bolded the item type character, which is usually one of the following:

  • 0 = plain text file
  • 1 = directory listing
  • 2 = CSO search query
  • 3 = error message
  • 4 = BinHex encoded text file
  • 5 = binary archive file
  • 6 = UUEncoded text file
  • 7 = search engine query
  • 8 = telnet session pointer
  • 9 = binary file
  • g = GIF image file
  • h = html file
  • i = informational message
  • I = image file
  • s = audio file

So, at least for me, in Firefox, when I visit the search engine, I get prompted for my query before I even see the site. This puts even Google’s ubersimple homepage into a whole new light.

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2 comments

  1. Tim Dobson · October 23, 2007

    To be fair, arguing that gopher has better usability than than google is sound, the thing is, google is much more functional.
    Fidonet is an interesting lost tech to look at, I just wish I had been around at the time when it was in its prime, because it sounds fascinating. (or would have been at that time)
    gopher is one technology which has totally dissaperad, ftp and usenet are probably, sadly, following it.
    I know ftp is still used for mirrors and transferring stuff. but that is essentially it. almost no-one browses ftp servers.
    usenet is going because very little new users are coming in, while everybody who has usenet these days, also has a webbrowser and someone else has phpBB (or unfortunately vbullitin)
    -Tim

  2. chris · November 20, 2007

    Veronica is a very nice tool but don’t forget Jughead, which by the way , is now Jugtail:http://www.nongnu.org/jugtail/
    I was very happy to see Mr Jones release this tool under the GPL.
    In general Veronica searched (indexed) all of gopherspace and Jughead searched (indexed) one gopher or several gophers.
    Veronica was slower and was built to handle a considerably larger database, Jughead was built for speed and it’s database is restricted by the servers ram.
    Today Gopher isnt actually dead and we also have a Veronica-2 in gopherspace as well over at Floodgap:
    gopher://gopher.floodgap.com:70/
    For other searches at or linked from the
    hal3000 gopher try:
    gopher://hal3000.cx/1/Search
    As for the usability of gopher search tools, they are what they are and did what they intended to do very well.
    As for the usability of Gopher?
    Well it isn’t the web… some like that some don’t. It was a replacement for FTP and it is simple directory listings, no flash or adds, jingles or midi’s, unless of course they are a file on the gopher’s server and then you can choose to grab them and look at them 🙂 Besides that the bandwidth is tiny compared to web pages. With the modern Gopher server you have options to also serve your gopher in html and wap at the same time, one example of such a server is Pygopherd:
    http://gopher.quux.org:70/devel/gopher/pygopherd
    So lets say you have information you want to diseminate across gopher,html and wap
    something you need like weather or even the solunar tables or maybe financial info so that you might be able to reach this at home, office or in the field via cell phone, you can write one script one time under one cron job and have this exact particular simple low bandwidth data of your choice instantly available in all these ways (even ftp if you allow viewing of your gophers directory from ftpd.)
    So dead we are not, we just have a simple small following 🙂
    Happy gophering!
    Chris

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