Gopher, like the World Wide Web, is a system that was created to organize information on the Internet. Gopher is older than the Web, and most gopher sites have been converted to Web pages. However, many interesting files and links can still be found at Gopher sites. In the past you would have needed special gopher software to view and navigate gopher sites, but now you can simply use your browser.
Gopher sites are reached in the the same ways you reach a World Wide Web or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site. Gopher organizes its information into menus. You navigate through these menus to find the information or link that you want. You look for information on Gopher sites with search programs called Veronica and Jughead (yes, based on the comic book characters) that are included on the sites.
The origin of the name - I had assumed Gopher meant this internet protocal was meant to be used to "go for" this or that file. It turns out it was invented at the University of Minnesota, home of the fighting Gophers.
Gopher can be used directly from your browser. No additional software is needed.
You reach a Gopher site in the same ways you reach a World Wide Web or FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site. You just click a link on a Web site, FTP site, or Gopher site, or in an e-mail message or newsgroup message. You can also type a Gopher address into the Location (also called Address, or URL) box, at the top of the browser window, and press ENTER. To reach a gopher site, the address must begin with gopher:// instead of http:// or ftp://.
For a good Gopher starting point, try The University of Minnesota Gopher Site.
Your browser displays Gopher Internet sites as menus of clickable links. Links in Gopher sites are organized by subjects. You can think of it as a filing system, organized just like the folders in a filing cabinet. Folders often contain more folders, which are subsets of the original topic. You select a topic and a gopher site creates a menu of sub-topics, displayed as folders, which fit within your general topic. You click a more specific topic and the site creates an even more specific menu of choices. Some of these choices are folders further refining the topic, and some are links to text files, pictures or other sites.