Re: Gopher VR

Mark Sanderson <> Thu, 06 April 1995 10:56 UTC

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Date: Thu, 6 Apr 1995 11:24:59 +0100
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From: Mark Sanderson <>
Subject: Re: Gopher VR
Reply-To: Mark Sanderson <>
Precedence: list

As suggested by Mark, I read the start of his paper

A Preliminary Design for a 3-D Spatial User Interface for Internet Gopher
Mark P. McCahill

A few of things occurred to me, as a trivial point it was a bit misleading
not to mention WWW in the opening paragraphs when discussing gopher's
position (3.5% of traffic counting bytes) in the NSF internet statistics.
Especially as I believe http (web protocol) is now the second most used
protocol (13.5%) on the Net.

The next part of the paper discusses the known problems with gopher.  They are

* The lost-in-space problem. Users complain of feeling lost after
navigating for a while and have difficulty remembering where they found an
interesting item

* The grouping problem. Within a directory it is difficult to show
relationships between items represented in a linear list.

*The browsing problem. It is difficult to browse because documents reflect
so little of their content.

Now I would argue that these problems are *precisely* what make WWW
different and (in my opinion) better than gopher.  With its greater control
over page design you can group directorys (links), you can provide context
while the user is navigating, you can reflect more of a document's content.

Of course just because one system (WWW) can do it, doesn't mean there isn't
a better way waiting to be found.  But I'm just not convinced that Gopher
VR will do it.  The problem is that although machines are starting to be
fast enough to handle complex 3D displays, these displays operate at a low
resolution, if you don't believe me, you only have to look at the large
font size Gopher VR has to use so that the text is readable from differnt
angles.  So by going for this type of display you run the risk of not
getting as much information in to a certain size of window as you would by
using a simpler display technique.

One of the good arguments I've heard in favour of gopher is that many
people don't have machines fast enough to handle WWW.  One person told me
that many 3rd world countries are adopting gopher for this very reason.

However in creating GopherVR and presumably encouraging its use, people
with slow machines and small screens are being abandoned.  There are only a
few machines in our department capable of running GopherVR, but all our
machines can run WWW.

Mark Sanderson,                            Fax  : +44 (0)141 330 4913
Department of Computing Science,           Tel  : +44 (0)141 339 8855 x6292
The University,                            Email:
Glasgow G12 8QQ,                           URL  :
Scotland, UK                                      /~sanderso/
Good judgement comes from experience, but experience comes from bad