Floodgap HELP: Using a web browser to access gopher space
updated 11 November 2010
Gopher support in many web browsers is not what it used to be: either they used
to support it and don't, or they never did in the first place. Fortunately,
there are still some browsers that support it natively, and many others for
which it can happily be a build-in option. Here's how you can get the best
of both worlds!
Lynx is probably the best browser for surfing both the Web and Gopherspace
in terms of its elegance. Text mode may be a limited oeuvre, but Lynx makes
it shine. It seamlessly shifts between both protocols without crufty helpers
or proxies, is fast and respectful to servers, dizzyingly configurable, and
interestingly is the only web browser that recognises GET gopher selectors as
web pages and automatically maps them into URLs. This is more exciting than
it sounds, trust me. :-) It also supports the gamut of Gopher features,
including search servers. The only thing it lacks is Gopher+ (oh, okay, and
MOZILLA FIREFOX, ICEWEASEL, AND FRIENDS
For many years Mozilla was the best choice for a graphical client that
offered Gopher along with its usual superior browsing experience. This is
ending with the introduction of Mozilla 2.0 and Firefox 4.0, which finally
removes support for the protocol. We're not happy about it, but at least
we kept it in there on life support for a few years (bug 388195).
Fortunately, Mozilla's powerful add-on system allows you to restore Gopher
support! Grab OverbiteFF, and you can visit Gopher servers natively (no
proxies! no cheating!) on any system, including Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.
OverbiteFF natively supports ports other than port 70, has inline viewing
and skinning, and supports hURLs and CSO searches -- all features that Mozilla
WE CONSIDER THIS THE BEST WAY TO SURF THE WEB AND GOPHERSPACE. It's what we
do -- we eat our own dogfood at Floodgap.
Get Firefox: http://www.getfirefox.com/
(Mac OS X PPC:) http://www.tenfourfox.com/
Get OverbiteFF: gopher://gopher.floodgap.com/1/overbite/
Disclaimer: we maintain TenFourFox as a Firefox 4 build for Power Macs,
and OverbiteFF is fully compatible with it.
OTHER MOZILLA BROWSERS AND FIREFOX 3 (CAMINO, SEAMONKEY, ETC.)
Firefox 3.5.x and 3.6.x (Mozilla 1.9.1 and 1.9.2) are still supported as of
this writing, and still support Gopher natively. However, they do lack useful
modern Gopher features with their current support (such as hURLs and CSO/ph
queries), and have only basic navigation and rendering, and are limited to port
70. Fortunately, OverbiteFF is compatible with them too.
Camino 2.0 is based on Mozilla 1.9.0, and the forthcoming 2.1 is based on
1.9.2, both of which support Gopher natively.
SeaMonkey 2.0 is based on Mozilla 1.9.1, and still supports Gopher. Fortunately
it is also compatible with OverbiteFF. 2.1 will be based on Mozilla 2, so it
will lack gopher support; when 2.1 becomes beta, OverbiteFF will be extended
to SeaMonkey 2.1 also.
OmniWeb 5.9.2, released on 1 April 2009, adds Gopher support! Although there
are no icons, it fully renders i itemtype and supports most other item types,
and is NOT an April Fools joke! If you like Safari, then you should be using
OmniWeb for your Gopher/surfing needs, since it is built on the same core
(WebKit). It appears this support has made its way into the main WebKit
archive, but Safari does not support it :-( (see below).
Google Chrome does not support Gopher natively, and its extension system is
primitive compared to Mozilla such that an extension cannot add *native*
support back per se. However, the Overbite Chrome extension will automatically
intercept gopher:// URLs typed in the omnibox and send them to the proxy of
your choice automatically, plus rewrite gopher:// URLs in web pages, such that
the experience appears seamless. You can get it from
Chrome 5.x or higher is required. Remember, your requests are forwarded to a
proxy. Only use proxies you trust.
Classilla, a Mozilla-based browser for Mac OS 9, supports basic Gopher as
of version 9.0 (disclaimer: I am the project lead). Additional support is
in progress, and the port 70 restriction was removed in version 9.2.1 to
use an internal whitelist. Its level is on par with current versions of
Firefox and Camino. You can get it from
NETSCAPE (< 5.0)
Pre-Mozilla Netscape (not the current codebase) is not spectacular but
certainly functional as a gopher client. Examining version 4.8's support,
it doesn't know how to understand Gopher+ but it's tolerant, and like
Lynx, supports the gamut of Gopher features. It properly (or at least
sensibly) formats gopher menus, accepts i itemtype, and doesn't try to
mess with selectors. It is also very quick, simple and painless to use.
While it isn't as seamless as Lynx, it gets the job done. Even though it is
aging rapidly in terms of its standards support, where gopher is concerned
it's a decent choice, and for older systems is probably still the best
all-around option for Web and gopher in a single application.
Mosaic-CK is a branch of NCSA Mosaic that yours truly maintains. This version
has Gopher support up to Netscape 4 standards, plus hURLs, in versions 2.7ck7
and higher. You can get it from
NCSA MOSAIC, VMS MOSAIC
NCSA Mosaic, all prior versions tested, supports Gopher, but does not properly
handle i itemtypes, which are used for displaying informational text;
instead, it renders them as links, which invariably fail when clicked on.
However, it is otherwise functional, and has most functions supported
except for Gopher+ (tested 1.x, 2.x and up).
VMS Mosaic is based on the same code and has the same drawbacks, but George
Cook has stated he is considering using my patches for VMS Mosaic. We'll
let you know if he does.
MICROSOFT INTERNET EXPLORER
And now, Internet Explorer. If you are using Internet Explorer 7 and
up, there is NO MORE GOPHER SUPPORT (disabled at the WinINet level) -- you
will need to use a proxy (keep reading) or an external application.
Internet Explorer 6 can access gopher sites, but because of security bulletin
MS02-047, if patched up, Gopher support is DISABLED BY DEFAULT. -047 suggests
that this buffer overrun reported in the security advisory is corrected, but
disables Gopher in any case. This is nonsensical by any stretch of the
imagination. To reenable Gopher, you will need to insert a registry key;
either download the registry file from the clients directory here at Floodgap,
or go into RegEdit, drill down to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\
Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings, and enter a key named EnableGopher
with type DWord and value 00000001. The reg file is available from
It has been tested to work on Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
You may read Microsoft's brightly boneheaded corporate burble on why they
did that at
***If you're getting an error from IE about all gopher sites, resulting in
an inexplicable error message 'Cannot find server or DNS' which is totally
spurious (I get many complaints about floodgap's DNS, which is completely
functional, because of this completely inaccurate explanation), that's the
symptom of this error. Patch your IE, or better yet, ditch it for something
better like Firefox or Camino.***
Assuming you patched Internet Explorer 6 to reenable gopher support, or you
are still using Internet Explorer 4 or 5 for gopherspace, the news doesn't get
better: IE in any incarnation is miserable as a Gopher client. Because it
inherits the NCSA Mosaic codebase, it does not handle the i itemtype correctly,
which is used for displaying informational text, but that's just the least of
your worries. It does not allow access to TCP ports other than 70, which is a
VERY crippling limitation, and you can even outright *crash* IE 4 through 5
completely (and even Microsoft Web Proxy) by going to any gopher selector
that has a question mark '?' in it. This seems to have been repaired, finally,
in some versions of 5.0 but I still observe this bug from time to time.
There are also some reported problems with using itemtype 7 search servers,
such as Veronica-2, where some versions just hang.
Interestingly, this does not apply to Macintosh IE 5, which *doesn't* seem to
have any of these limitations other than the improper rendering of i itemtype.
Also, older versions of Internet Explorer, apparently v2.x and before, and
possibly v3.x, may not suffer from the problems that 4.x and 5.x do (quite
strange, as IE was allegedly based on Mosaic). Some users have reported that
the original webTV can also surf Gopherspace unfettered, since it's based on
an older version of IE; it appears very similarly to Netscape's presentation.
(I can't confirm this on my webTV emulator, but the functionality may be
disabled. Unfortunately, using an old IE makes your web experience suck even
Regardless, IE 6 is such a worthless web browser in just about every other
respect that I strongly suggest you jump to something like Firefox or
Camino -- a far faster, more secure and more capable browser -- than remaining
with IE for your web browsing tasks.
Konqueror, the KDE browser, doesn't seem to work at all out of the box.
Although it will connect, some screen shots I was kindly sent by a contributor
show that it only displays the first line sent by the server. Not much help.
This is from version 2.1.1.
However, enterprising users have come through for the Konqueror gopher
community and generated a kioslave that in my cursory evaluation seems to
cover just about all the basic tasks. I have been told by Konqueror users
that gopher support works very well with it installed, so if you'd like to
try it out, you can download kio_gopher from its home site at
It does not seem to support Gopher+, but supports all other features
HYPERLINK (COMMODORE 64)
In the shameless plug department, HyperLink 2.5a and 2.5e for the Commodore
64 (disclosure: yours truly is the author) renders Gopherspace modeled on
Netscape, and does support indexed search servers. CSO searches are not
available in HL yet, however. i itemtype is supported. No Gopher+ yet.
The now-open source Arachne DOS web browser supports Gopher (tested on 1.70
and up) but also does not handle i itemtype correctly, giving them all links
and (inappropriate) content icons which makes navigation a little tricky. It
also does not properly support itemtype 7, meaning you cannot search sites
like Veronica-2 with it. If you are a DOS user, try Lynx for gopher instead.
The Arachne home page is
OPERA, SAFARI, iCAB, ...
Of the remaining major browsers, neither Opera nor Apple Safari nor iCab
support Gopher at all, and I am not aware of any other browsers other than the
ones mentioned above that do. Although WebKit does have Gopher support, Safari
and iCab do not integrate it.
I am told by Opera users, however, that Opera does support gopher proxy
servers. That brings us to:
So what do you do for browsers that utterly lack Gopher support at all? For
that case, use a proxy to do the conversion and spit out pre-rendered menus.
Besides the Public Proxy we offer here at http://gopher.floodgap.com/gopher/
open source also can help; a Squid developer has recently informed me that
Squid has gopher support built into it, modeled on Netscape 4.x's gopher
rendering. This is an excellent proxy server and should provide good
capabilities. Look for it in versions >=2.5. Again, user comments invited.
Please note that not all proxy servers are created equal; I am also informed
that Apache's proxy server does not support gopher at all (403 error).
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Serious exploration of Gopher still demands a more-than-basic client to get
the most out of the protocol, and we offer some here. Nevertheless, if you'd
like to go for an all-in-one browser solution, or if you're just playing
around and don't want to install something else, we strongly recommend using
Lynx, Firefox or Camino (current versions) with OverbiteFF where possible.
You can also check out a standards-based proxy that we offer at
if you cannot upgrade, or just want a taste of gopher; and if you use a
Mozilla-based browser, look at
Send your questions and your suggestions/test cases (particularly with
browsers we haven't mentioned here) to: