A network with the breadth and reach of the Internet quickly surpassed the ability of users to keep track of the location of information. With 50,000 networks, keeping track of files and IP addresses quickly became impossible. Soon computer scientists began writing software to help users find and transfer files. One of the most popular was Gopher, released in 1991 by Paul Lindner and Mark P. McCahill from the University of Minnesota. Gopher, and its descendents, allowed users to search through "Gopher space" for files to transfer via file transfer protocol (FTP). Gopher was an Internet protocol that provided menu-driven file-and-data retrieval from remote computer servers (Anklesaria, et al., 1993). Gopher sites organized files for retrieval and were set up to be searched by users. Although they were text based, these early versions of internet searching software greatly simplified the problem of finding files on the Internet
The Gopher protocol is a TCP/IP application layer protocol designed for searching and retrieving documents over the Internet.
The Gopher protocol was oriented towards a menu-document design and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its early stages,
but ultimately HTTP became the dominant protocol and the Gopher ecosystem is often regarded as the effective predecessor of the World Wide Web.
Gopher offers some features not natively supported by the Web and imposes a much stronger hierarchy on information stored on it.
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. 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. Gopher has been described by some enthusiasts as "faster and more efficient and so much more organized" than today's Web services.