Alternate history of Gopher web

Tom James @ 12-03-2009

linkRobert Topolski, chief technologist of the Open Technology Initiative suggests that but for a quirk of history we might all be using Gopher instead of Tim Berners-Lee‘s World Wide Web:

By the 1990s, there was just about enough power to allow access to text and image-based files via the internet, and Tim Berners-Lee‘s World Wide Web was born.

But network administrators at the time preferred a streamlined text-only internet service, says Topolski, using something called the Gopher protocol.

He suggested that if those administrators had had access to data filtering technology, like that becoming popular with companies and governments today, they would have used it to exclude Berners-Lee’s invention, and kill off the World Wide Web.

For other glimpses into possible alternate histories of hypertext check out this article in the New York Times about Theodor Holm Nelson’s Project Xanadu. Or even further back check out Memex by hypertext pioneer Vannever Bush.

[from Short Sharp Science][image from James Jordan on flickr]

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2 Responses to “Alternate history of Gopher web”

  1. Tom Marcinko says:

    I haven’t read the Live without a Net anthology, but I wonder if any of the writers covered this horrible dystopian possibility.

    (True story: In the 90s I worked for a company whose IT director believed the Internet was “just a fad.”)

  2. Denni says:

    Hell, Bill Gates believed the internet was just a fad 😉

    Took him quite a while to come round to it as well.