On Gemini and Gopher, the Internet Protocols

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2 minutes

For people hanging out on the IndieWeb or Tildeverse, Gemini and Gopher are no strangers. These barebone (Gemini and Gopher) and quite old (Gopher) internet protocols – Gopher predates HTTP – are attractive because of their limited ability. It’s all about getting rid of tracking, distraction, and noise – audible and visible.1

Most websites are essentially just text, but for business reasons they are overloaded with crap to engage you just a little bit longer. And to measure this and show more ads, those pages are loaded with JavaScript, which multiply the download size of the pages while taxing the reader’s devices with high CPU load and low battery runtime.

While Gopher is an too old-fashioned and somewhat crummy solution, Gemini might be just right. It’s a modernized Gopher. On Gemini’s homepage is a good rundown on how it works and why it’s limited on purpose the way it is. I get the ideas, especially that the client, not the server, should decide how a page is presented to the user.

I’ve been using a very nice Gemini browser called Geopard on Linux for almost two days straight, and somewhat enjoyed it. But in the end, it’s a too frugal web experience in my opinion.2

I’m more of less-is-more person, so I should be attracted by it. But I already mitigated some parts of the modern web. On iOS I always have the reading mode in Safari turned on. So all websites are stripped to the essential content, which I like, and look the same, which is okay. But I’d rather have those webpages show some personality.

My idea of a good website is one without any JavaScript, which is supposed to add behaviour but that I don’t need. I want a calm, reduced design, where the focus is on the content, while using appropriate whitespace and great typography to let it shine.

Those pages would be small in size, the servers serving those page and their internet connections as well. Only little data transfer and great battery life on user’s devices. Everyone wins, even the environment.3

I think, that modern HTML and CSS can achieve a great web experience without being user-hostile, even if the browsers to render them are very complex.


  1. Be aware that you cannot use a normal Browser to view Gemini or Gopher pages, but a dedicated browser for those. Although, there are some proxies on the web, which allow viewing those pages with an ordinary HTTP/HTML browser. 

  2. But I installed amfora, a console-based Gemini browser, on my Mac for those times, when I’m inclined to enjoy the parts I enjoyed again, and phetch, which is a console Gopher browser. Try e.g. gemini://atyh.net and gopher://atyh.net to see the differences for yourself. 

  3. We probably need some sort of micro-payment for for-profit websites. But this discussion has been started already some 20 or 25 years ago, while apparently nobody thinks this can be solved. 

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