A distributed document search-and-find network protocol was released in 1991 by Paul Lindner and Mark McCahill. Nobody really knows why the protocol was named “gopher.” Some individuals say it means simply “go-fer” information, whereas others note that it does its job using a web of menu items similar to gopher holes. Still others maintain that it was named after the mascot for the University of Minnesota (the Golden Gophers), which is where Lindner and McCahill went to university.
The Gopher’s original design for sharing documents was similar to that of the World Wide Web, and the Gopher protocol has been replaced by the Web. Because the Gopher protocol had some features not supported by the Web, some experts consider it to have had a better protocol for searching and storing large data repositories.
When the Web was first introduced in 1991, Gopher was popular. Then, in February 1993 when the University of Minnesota announced that it would begin to charge users licensing fees to use Gopher, the latter underwent a large decrease in both popularity and usage. Some security experts believe that Gopher’s downfall was brought on by its limited structure as compared to free-form HTML.