Rob.Harper at csc.fi
Mon Apr 19 00:53:18 EST 1993
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Here is a rather lengthy summary that I presented to several people here at
the University of North Texas...Note that there are no names mentioned and
that it is very non-technical.
The Internet Gopher World Tour 1993
What follows is a description of the GopherCon '93workshop/conference
held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 12-13, 1993. This conference
was jointly hosted by the University of Minnesota and CICNet and was
held at the Raddison Hotel.
Monday - Gopher Workshop
The workshop attendees were limited to a invite-only list of 75people.
These people were those who had either contributed something of valueto
the code for Gopher (client or server) or who had attended the first
GopherCon workshop in 1992 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
History and Growth of Gopher
The Gopher Team from UMN presented a brief history of Gopher. They
mentioned the two years that a Campus Wide Information System committee
had spent writing proposals and designing the ultimate CWIS without
writing a line of code. As we know, committees sometimes don't work, so
the Gopher Team wrote the first set of Gopher server/clients on their
own and showed it to the committee. The CWIS group hated it because it
had not been written to committee standards and forbade the Gopher Team
from releasing the product. The political situation changed a bit and
the Internet Gopher was released to the world.
The Internet Gopher's growth rate is outstanding. In terms of amount
of traffic on the National Science Foundation's Internet backbone,
Gopher went from 144th place in December 1991 to 9th place in December
1992 and is currently at 7th place for March 1993. There are currently
over 1,200 Gopher servers around the world including some in Russia,
Canada, Ecuador, Spain, Sweeden, Switzerland, Chile and other countries.
The Gopher Team discussed several new features that are considered for Gopher+,
the protocol extension to the Gopher protocol. It should be emphasized
that Gopher+ does exist in beta stage now.
ASK blocks will allow for electronic forms to be included in Gopher.
These forms are not very sophisticated, but they do allow simple
multi-line free form text input for user surveys. They could be used to
have users request items from the Gopher administrator, as part of a
quality survey about Gopher items or to order items. They could also
facilitate easier document uploading to Gopher and provide for a more
'fluid' Gopherspace (the term used to describe the interconnected Gopher
The Gopher Team also emphasized the need for Gopher to support Unified
Resource Names (UNR) and Unified Resource Locators (URL). The promised
to include support as soon as these definitions were clarified by the
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They also wanted support for
WHOIS++, which is a simplier way of implementing an X.500-like service
dictionary. They also talked about their use of AdmitOne, a basic
authentication tool used to provide access to secure information.
Item Attribute Registry
There was a rather intense discussion concerning the use of
Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) document descriptors to
replace those descriptors used in the current beta of Gopher+. The
Gopher Team agreed to re-consider MIME document descriptors based upon
work done by the Internet community to map MIME types to current Gopher+
types. This promises potentially greater naming standard compatibility
between Gopher and other Internet utilities.
A Internet-wide (Gopherspace-wide) search utility called Veronica was
described. It is designed to allow a person to search the entire scope
of Gopherspace for a series of keywords describing the type of
information they want. The Veronica development team (not related to
the Gopher Team) described some extensions to the Veronica system that
allow it to search on keywords that describe an individual file within
Gopherspace. Veronica's future looks very bright and several people
committed to making Veronica faster, more detailed and more widely
Monday also featured some break-out sessions to discuss various topics
related to the Internet and Gopher. In one session, Cataloging
Electronic Journals and Resources, a working group was formed among
several universities to help facilitate the discover and search of
electronic periodicals and journals. This group would also work closely
with the Veronica team.
Another group discussed the need for the AdmitOne technology in Gopher+
to be refinied and to be modular. With modularity, a campus could
substitute whatever encryption scheme they wanted to (RSA, public key).
Some possible security breaches were also discussed.
Another group discussed the idea of using Gopher as a front-end to
commercial databases. These could include Sybase, Oracle, Z39.50, dBase
and others. One of the Gopher Team members described the existing
interface to MetalBase, a public domain DBMS.
Finally, there was a bit of a argument concerning licensing. Basically,
the Gopher Team has decided to take a step back and re-evaluate their
licensing policy. However, educational sites will most likely need not
worry as client/server software will most likely continue to be free to
Tuesday - Gopher Conference
On Tuesday, there was an open invitation to people to attend the Gopher
Conference. A total of about 220 people were scheduled to attend.
Several people from outside of the United States attended, including
some from Europe, South America and Asia.
Summary of Monday
The Gopher Team presented a summary of Monday's Workshop and the
conclusions they had reached about Gopher+'s future. New commitments
were made to maintain compatibility with other Internet protocols.
Several breakout sessions followed. I have detailed the sessions that I
People from Norte Dame, Rice University, University of Michigan and
University of Utah described some of the tools and administrative
practices used at their sites. Most of the people agreed that a single
Gopher server with at least one full-time person dedicated to CWIS
management was the best model to follow. Some tools were presented to
detail the number of connections and file downloads from a Gopher
server. The Gopher Team related that their Gopher server gets over
50,000 connections per day. For a reference, it is a mid-line Macintosh
IIci running Apple's A/UX Unix operating system.
Here the modularity and need for AdmitOne was discussed. Several people
pointed out esoteric ways of cracking the system, however they agreed
that there was room for AdmitOne in Gopher+. Several people asked for
the ability to plug their own security system (Kerbeos, RSA, public-key
encryption) in place of AdmitOne. The Gopher Team also agreed to
consider these factors and make AdmitOne more secure.
Other working groups were formed to continue work on items such as
organizing subject-matter based Gophers and making resource location and
classification easier. The Gopher Team expects additional work from
these new groups in the future and the Internet community as a whole.
In summary, GopherCon '93 proved to be very educational and was a great
opportunity to form working relationships with other VIPs in the
Internet community. Gopher+ and Veronica will evolve significantly due
to this meeting of the minds. I also came away with a better
understanding of Gopher tools and utilities to manage a Gopher server.
I am looking forward to the collabrotive work of the Internet community
due to this Conference.
Mark Thacker Bitnet : MARK at UNTVAX -or- THENET : NTVAXA::MARK
CC1 Novell LAN Manager Internet : Thacker at cc1.unt.edu
Computing Center or : Mark at vaxb.acs.unt.edu
University of North Texas Denton, Texas 76203 817-565-2324
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