BY FAR the most popular simplest methods of accessing information over the Internet are the protocols known as Gopher and the World-Wide Web (often called the Web, WWW or W3). Gopher, invented at the University of Minnesota (The Golden Gophers, get it?), is a hierarchically-based text menu system which allows the user to navigate a given site's information bank, as well as to connect to other information sites. Once connected to a gopher server, the user may surf around from site to site with ease, gathering information by searching menus of interest or typing in key words of interest, which the gopher program then searches for within the system.
The Web, one of the most recent additions to the Internet, is an advanced navigator protocol which offers easy access to graphics and text, as well as audio and video samples. Using a browsing program such as Netscape, a user connects with a Web home page, which is simply a default server connection From a home page, the user may click on to highlighted text or graphics to log on to other infomation systems. (note: another browser, Lynx, is also very useful, for it is text-based only. This means it is faster than Netscape Mosaic, and more importantly, can work fairly well over a modem connection.)
Both gopher and the Web are excellent research tools, for they allow the user to travel the net, following subjects of interest and guiding the computer with key words or phrases typed into the system. Though lacking the audiovisual capabilities of the Web, gopher provides quick connectivity to thousands of text sources. The Web, on the other hand, includes the ability to see and hear samples interesting bits of information.
When it comes to logging into a gopher or Web client, one must always remember the basic rule: you can access a gopher using Web software, but you usually can't access the Web with gopher software. Because gopher is text-based, a Web program such as Mosaic can handle a gopher connection without trouble. When a gopher program attempts to log onto a Web client, though, the attempt will either fail or only connect to the textual information (and thus ignore any graphics or sound capabilities).
Sometimes a client will have the same address name for its gopher and Web, so it will access its information in accordance to the user's software. More often than not, if you know the name of a gopher server (such as gopher.ed.gov), you can usually substitute the word 'gopher' with 'www' (i.e. www.ed.gov) and get the Web client instead.