Download A Piece of Internet History

Back in the early 1990s, before there was a World Wide Web, there was the Internet Gopher. It was a distributed information system in the same sense as the web, but didn’t use hypertext and was text-based. Gopher was popular back then, as it made it easy to hop from one server to the next in a way that FTP didn’t.

Gopher has hung on over the years, and is still clinging to life in a way. Back in 2007, I was disturbed at the number of old famous Gopher servers that had disappeared off the Internet without a trace. Some of these used to be known by most users of the Internet in the early 90s. To my knowledge, no archive of this data existed. Nobody like had ever attempted to save Gopherspace.

So I decided I would. I wrote Gopherbot, a spidering archiver for Gopherspace. I ran it in June 2007, and saved off all the documents and sites it could find. That saved 40GB of data, or about 780,000 documents. Since that time, more servers have died. To my knowledge, this is the only comprehensive archive there is of what Gopherspace was like. (Another person is working on a new 2010 archive run, which I’m guessing will find some new documents but turn up fewer overall than 2007 did.)

When this was done, I compressed the archive with tar and bzip2 and split it out to 4 DVDs and mailed copies to a few people in the Gopher community.

Recently, we’ve noted that hard disk failures have hobbled a few actually maintained Gopher sites, so I read this archive back in and posted it on BitTorrent. If you’d like to own a piece of Internet history, download the torrent file and go to town (and please stick around to seed if you can). This is 15GB compressed, and also includes a rare video interview with two of the founders of Gopher.

There are some plans to potentially host this archive publicly in the manner of; we’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of it.

Finally, I have tried to find a place willing to be a permanent host of this data, and to date have struck out. If anybody knows of such a place, please get in touch. I regret that so many Gopher sites disappeared before 2007, but life is what it is, and this is the best snapshot of the old Gopherspace that I’m aware of and would like to make sure that this piece of history is preserved.

Update: The torrents are now permaseeded at See the 2007 archive and the 2006 mirror collection.

Update: The ibiblio mirror is now down, but you can find them on See the 2007 archive and the 2006 mirror collection.

49 thoughts on “Download A Piece of Internet History

  1. Andy Cater says:

    Try the University of Kent at Canterbury – – they have the UK’s largest mirror of content

    1. John Goerzen says:

      Thanks, I’ve contacted them, but I suspect this may not be exactly what they’re interested in.

  2. Roeland Kok says:

    Thank you John! Great to see you still caring about Gopher ^_^

    Gopher Lives!

  3. chuck says:

    One big reason for gopher’s sudden demise is that UMich decided they owned it, and sent out vaguely threatening letters concerning licensing. Shortly after, NCSA chimed in and promised to do no such thing with the newfangled WWW. Gopher’s fate was instantly sealed and the rest is history.

    1. John Goerzen says:

      That is, of course, part of the reason for it. UMN actually GPL’d their code about 10 years ago now, but of course far too late for any kind of resurgence.

    2. AB says:

      Michigan is the Wolverines. Minnesota is the Golden Gophers

  4. Trevor B says:

    Thanks a lot, downloading and will seed as long as I can.

  5. Lesty says:

    This is cool I’ll download for sure and help seed. Great work on archiving this stuff.

    1. John Goerzen says:

      I asked them in 2007 and was turned down, but I will try again.

  6. crashdump says:

    nice work, the archive is now mirrored here:

  7. Richard Milward says:

    Contact the folks at
    “Home to one of the largest “collections of collections” on the Internet, is a conservancy of freely available information, including software, music, literature, art, history, science, politics, and cultural studies. is a collaboration of the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.” I bet they’ll be glad to host this!

  8. Mike says:


    I have an almost-empty dedicated server and would consider hosting the whole thing in its entirety. Contact me if you’re still looking for a home for it.


  9. Andy says:

    Hey I can host it for you.. Shoot me an email.

  10. poisonit says:

    $John++, a lot of thanks.

  11. Armistral says:

    Why not try the Library of Congress? They just added Twitter, Gopher seems like a worthy addition in context.



  12. JC says:

    First of all, thanks for doing this! Our digital history is constantly in peril of falling over, degrading or even just being carelessly deleted.

    Couple of questions–
    i) Any chance you could distribute (physical) DVDs? Maybe just charge for the media and postage costs. I for one can’t download that much data over my connection (or, I could, but only taking months and at great expense).

    ii) What would the copyright status of this archive be? Presumably you can’t claim ownership, but also presumably the original files’ copyright is with their original authors/owners. Just something to think about especially in these IP-craziness-filled times.

    1. John Goerzen says:

      I distributed DVDs to interested parties back in 2007, and sent out maybe just 2 or 3 sets. It takes a lot of time to burn, label, pack, mail, etc. and I’m not really able to do that again. But maybe somebody else can.

      As far as copyright issues are concerned, I suspect this would be pretty much the same as or Google Cache has to deal with. Except in this case, most of it was essentially abandoned content that people forgot even existed anyhow. Though certainly not all; there is a small active gopher community still.

  13. Andy says:

    The British Library might be interested as they haev also expanded their remit to include digital works – – and 40GB is hardly massive compared to their existing collections!


  14. Joe Abley says:

    I would fall off my chair in surprise of the people were not interested in this. If you need a contact, let me know.

  15. bubblesort says:

    I cut the video in the torrent in half and posted both halves to YouTube (10 minute limit on videos is annoying):

    Also, I was chatting with McCahill. He said the Babbage institute at University of Minnesota might be interested in hosting it for you if you ask them.

  16. auricom says:

    Long live gopher! Thankyou for this.

  17. msaunier says:

    I can host the entire thing in proper fashion, at a datacenter with a 10 meg connection. If you can provide a Hyper-V disk image (preferably a CentOS guest, but I hear Suse and Redhat are supported as well) and let me know what the hardware requirements are, I can get it hosted free, indefinitely.

  18. Guillermo Marcus says:


    I can offer some of my hosting space for this, I will download the file over the weekend and upload a preliminary version. Please contact me by email, then we can arrange more details as they come up.


  19. Stephen Baird says:

    Hi, am downloading as I type, I should be able to host this for free permanently but will have to have a look at it first to see

    Will post again when I’ve had a look


  20. mirabilos says:

    A server from a friend of mine:

    $ lynx -dump gopher://
    Gopher Menu

    (FILE) [1]About_this_server
    (FILE) [2]Ueber_diesen_Server
    (DIR) [3]bilder
    (DIR) [4]blog
    (DIR) [5]links
    (FILE) [6]ls-lR

  21. Frode Børli says:

    We could probably host everything. Gigabit internet servers. Get in touch. :-)

    1. Frode Børli says:

      For free, forever, ofcourse. Just wondering, do you have a ready to run way to host it? PHP or otherwise? :-)

  22. John Goerzen says:

    This archive is pretty much raw data. You can, of course, serve it up as a tar.bz2 directly. To make it browseable will take some software. There is some effort to do this on the Gopher mailing list. Those of you interested — I send you thanks! — probably would be best served discussing it there.

  23. Tom Morris says:

    Downloading it on my seedbox which has a pretty nice upload connection. Will keep it up on there for the next two weeks so the torrent should run pretty quickly.

    One thing on my ‘nerd bucketlist’: run a publicly-accessible gopher server someday.

  24. EmuWikiAdmin says:

    I volunteer to furnish a 100 mbps dedicated server to to host this archive.

  25. Robert Hardesty says:

    I would be willing to host the site if you like. What are your needs for the site? I have plenty of servers lying around doing and would be willing to donate their cycles to seeing this project move forward. Please let me know if you are interested.

  26. Joe Clark says:

    I think the videos should be separately available, ideally also in iPod-compatible formats. Surely at least posting to Vimeo is attainable?

    1. John Goerzen says:

      Look at the earlier comments. Someone already posted it to Youtube.

  27. Ciaran says:

    RE: the torrent, is there anyway to split the main files into several smaller ones as FAT32 cannot support files larger than 4gb therefore I can’t download the main file without switching to NTFS.

  28. Moein says:


    That’s Great !
    Thank You.

  29. emijrp says:

    Thanks for this. Good work.

  30. Wolf says:

    I’m working on making a web-based Gophernet archive & proxy, with both the 2007 & 2010 archives, as well as a continuously updated archive, similar to the wayback machine. Send me an email for more info. I’m still writing the server software, but plan to have a beta version up in a couple months.

  31. Nathan Prugh says:

    please seed both…..

  32. Consider adding this resource as well searchable Gopher Archive :

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