The Gopher protocol /ˈɡoʊfər/ is a communications protocol designed for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents in Internet Protocol networks. The design of the Gopher protocol and user interface is menu-driven, and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its early stages, but ultimately fell into disfavor, yielding to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The Gopher ecosystem is often regarded as the effective predecessor of the World Wide Web. The protocol was invented by a team led by Mark P. McCahill at the University of Minnesota. It offers some features not natively supported by the Web and imposes a much stronger hierarchy on the documents it stores. Its text menu interface is well-suited to computing environments that rely heavily on remote text-oriented computer terminals, which were still common at the time of its creation in 1991, and the simplicity of its protocol facilitated a wide variety of client implementations. More recent Gopher revisions and graphical clients added support for multimedia. needed] Gopher was preferred by many network administrators for using fewer network resources than Web services. Gopher's hierarchical structure provided a platform for the first large-scale electronic library connections. The Gopher protocol is still in use by enthusiasts, and although it has been almost entirely supplanted by the Web, a small population of actively-maintained servers remains.
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