Notes on an overheard conversation about the possibility of the Return of the Demonic Creature, or The Alien Invasion
“Come quick! I just saw something entering the neighbor's house.”
“No, something. Nothing human. Come on!”
“Okay! Okay! I'm coming. Where?”
“See where I'm shining the light?”
“Yes. It looks like a screen is falling out.”
“Yeah! That's where I saw and heard movement when I was taking out the garbage. Some … thing … scrambling to get in.”
“Might be a squirrel.”
“It could be the start of an alien invasion!”
“Really? It's a squirrel, or maybe an opossum.”
“Or, you know, the return of the Demonic Creature that invaded Bill's Room!”
“Now you're being silly.”
“Don't say I didn't warn you.”
My recent post about "why gopher needs crypto" received a very well- considered response over at The Boston Diaries. The author (do I call you "the conman"?) …
The conman suggests that creating a new protocol is to risk that we "start falling into HTTP territory". This is of course a very real risk, but I also very strongly believe that it is perfectly avoidable if we are sufficiently determined from day one to avoid it. To this end, I hope to think and write (and read, if anybody wants to join in!) more in the future not just about the shortcomings of gopher but very explicitly about what is right and what is wrong about HTTP and HTML. It's vitally important to identify precisely what features of the web stack facilitated the current state of affairs if we want to avoid the same thing happening again.
But while the blame definitely lies with Sun, that's not to say it wouldn't have happened. If Sun didn't do it, it would have most certainly been Microsoft, or even possibly Netscape (my money would have been on Microsoft though—they had already added support to run VisualBasic in their office suite and adding such to the browser would have been a natural progression for them). I think that whatever protocol was popular at the time, HTTP or Gopher, would have turned from a content delivery platform to an application delivery platform because that's the way the industry was headed (it's just that HTTP won out because of embedded cat pictures but again I digress).
In fact, the very nature of wanting to “improve Gopher” is what drove HTTP into its current incarnation in the first place and one must fight hard against the second system effect.