Is HTTP necessary??

Peter Lister, Cranfield Computer Centre (
Mon, 17 May 93 15:02:07 BST

I'm about to attend a meeting with various non-tech staff from other
departments about how best to publish their info. They seem to be
strongly in favour of Gopher - probably because they haven't had much
news of any alternative from their "normal" sources, because they're
aware of how widespread Gopher is, and because they've heard that it's
easy to set up.

I shall extol the virtues of Xmosaic, and HTML documents, while
assuring them that anything they want to publish can go into Gopher,
and also that they'll be able to get at Gopherspace, Veronica, etc via
XMosaic (or www on a terminal).

However, the more I think about it, the harder it is to justify HTTP
and httpd. If I can get at all my HTML docs from within Gopher space,
why bother? All the refs from local HTML docs to other http places will
work OK (won't they??), and I can provide a trivial default page for
httpd (so that the existing WWW community who know us that way are happy).

The mapping functionality of httpd can be useful, but does it do much
that can't be achieved by bunging symbolic links in a Gopher directory?
OK, so one can map different filename formats and that has been useful
here, if not vital. However, directory browsing is *not* nice with
httpd if I have to tag every directory with .www_browsable; I want
inexpert users to be able to publish information, and I forsee problems
if they need to do anything "unexpected" like that.

HTML is great, but is HTTP worth it? I'm want practical details, so
don't send me philosophical waffle or flame me for being a traitor to
WWW, cos I'm not. Yes, I know that there are rumours that Gopher is to
become proprietary. Unfortunately, while I regard that as bad, others
here may regard it as *good*; the idea of paying for a support contract
makes them feel warm, and secure, despite what experience should by now
have taught us.

Peter Lister
Computer Centre,
Cranfield Institute of Technology, Voice: +44 234 754200 ext 2828
Cranfield, Bedfordshire MK43 0AL England Fax: +44 234 750875