How to browse the Gopher network on Linux

While the web ruled the modern internet, there was another hypertext protocol called Gopher that briefly became popular in the early 1990s. Despite being overtaken by the World Wide Web, it still has a small but active user community 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 developed for the University of Minnesota and named after their sports team, the Golden Gophers.

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

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

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

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

Despite its relative obscurity, Gopher still has a cult following among users who find modern web design too bloated. You’ll find uses that didn’t exist, like phlogging or blogging with gopher.

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You can explore modern gopherspace from your Linux computer as well as from others, as modern browsing tools are cross-platform.

Browsing Gopher in Linux Terminal

There are several apps that you can use to browse gophers. 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 gophers


Gopher client in Debian XFCE

You can browse Gopher like 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 distributions:

sudo dnf install gopher

To use it, type “gophers” by the address you want to go to, like a web browser. A good way to try it is the Floodgap Gopher page.

gopher gopher.floodgap.com

With lynx


Lynx client shows gopher page in debian terminal

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

On Debian/Ubuntu you can install Lynx with APT:

sudo apt install lynx

To install Lynx on Arch Linux, run:

sudo pacman -S lynx

And to the Red Hat family:

sudo dnf install lynx

Lynx is a better choice because it supports both the web and gophers. It also has a more attractive interface. You can access Gopher sites as if you were using a web browser, but replace “HTTP” with “gopher” in the URL:

lynx gopher://gopher.floodgap.com

Related: Fun Linux Command Line Utilities to Try When Bored

Explore 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 as fewer people are using it, but you can use Cameron Kaisers Floodgap proxy to search gopherspace in your browser.

Simply navigate to the proxy, click the Standard or Lite links and enter your Gopher address. This works in any web browser on any platform, not just Linux.

Now you can explore Gopherspace on Linux

With Gopher, you can take a look at the world as it was before the web. You might think it’s a pre-web oddity, but it has a lot going for it that might not be on the radar for the rest of the internet. If you want to go further and off the beaten path, check out these useful dark web resources.



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