FOSSPicks

Gopher client

Bombadillo

The Internet has grown to become a huge distraction. The content generation and dynamic linking algorithms on domains like Facebook, reddit.com, YouTube, and Google are purposefully designed to keep you engaged and looking at the screen, tracking your Internet use while surreptitiously inserting discrete advertising. But it wasn't always like this. The early World Wide Web was designed to be rich in accessible and portable content, augmented at the time by a host of other protocols that provided alternative ways of retrieving information. One of these protocols was Gopher, a prototype web that was contemporary with Tim Berners-Lee's HTTP, but easier to deploy and access. It provided a simple and navigable way to present a collection of documents and even jump between them. It was a perfect way of accessing text on low bandwidth connections with underpowered hardware from a global network. It was important enough that web browsers even supported the Gopher protocol and could display their pages inside the main window.

Remarkably, there is still Gopher content available, and while modern browsers can no longer access it, there does exist a modern Gopher client, which is what the Go-coded Bombadillo is. Bombadillo runs in a terminal, takes a gopher:// protocol address as an argument, and uses many keyboard controls borrowed from Vim. You can press : to open the command input, for instance (or press space), and use jklh for movement, with b and f for going backwards and forwards through your page history. This being Gopher, links actually appear as numbers, much like footnotes in a book. You press the number to follow the link, which takes you to another page of text. And that's what remains refreshing about Gopher. It's an Internet without distraction, where you can focus purely on the details that interest you.

Project Website

https://bombadillo.colorfield.space/

There are still some great sites available via Gopher, such as Project Gutenberg, unencumbered by web bloat, images, and advertising.

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