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Reading some rather old computer books, I have seen the gopher protocol mentioned frequently.
What is it used for? And, is it still used today?

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The Wikipedia Article covers this reasonably well –  RedGrittyBrick Nov 2 '11 at 23:30

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Gopher was a text based protocol that was used on the internet on the early days. Unlike http and the web as we know it, sites were structured, and accessed through a hierarchical menu.It was, in essence the predecessor of HTTP, and the web

Currently gopher is a historical curiosity, but many major browsers had support for it at one point, but currently you'd either need a separate client or a plugin to access it. It hasn't really aged as gracefully as irc or usenet did, and there's very few gopher servers in use right now.

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Great answer (+1)! I remember using Opera a few years ago to access a Gopher server (so it may be one of the last), but I don't know if the current version still has support for it. –  Randolf Richardson Nov 3 '11 at 0:37

Wikipedia is going to be the best answer to this I think, but here's a quick summary.

Gopher is another information-dissemination protocol that came out in the early 90s, like HTTP. It's text-based, and designed to provide structured, hierarchical information quickly and easily. It's not used much today, it's believed there are less than 200 gopher servers running on the internet.

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