Mark P. McCahill

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Mark P. McCahill (Mark Perry McCahill)
Mark McCahill in 2006 (cropped).jpg
Born (1956-02-07) February 7, 1956 (age 66)
NationalityUnited States
OccupationProgrammer/systems architect
Known forInventing the Gopher protocol, the predecessor of the World Wide Web; developing and popularizing a number of other Internet technologies

Mark Perry McCahill (born February 7, 1956) is an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer. He has developed and popularized a number of Internet technologies since the late 1980s, including the Gopher protocol, Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), and POPmail.


Mark McCahill received a BA in chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1979, spent one year doing analytical environmental chemistry, and then joined the University of Minnesota Computer Center as a programmer.[1]

Internet pioneer[edit]

In the late 1980s, McCahill led the team at the University of Minnesota that developed POPmail, one of the first popular Internet e-mail clients.[2] At about the same time as POPmail was being developed, Steve Dorner at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed Eudora, and the user interface conventions found in these early efforts are still used in modern-day e-mail clients.[3]

In 1991, McCahill led the original Gopher development team, which invented a simple way to navigate distributed information resources on the Internet.[4][5][6][7] Gopher's menu-based hypermedia combined with full-text search engines paved the way for the popularization of the World Wide Web and was the de facto standard for Internet information systems in the early to mid 1990s.[2]

Working with other pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreessen, Alan Emtage and Peter J. Deutsch (creators of Archie) and Jon Postel, McCahill was involved in creating and codifying the standard for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs).[8]

In the mid 90s, McCahill's team developed GopherVR, a 3D user interface for the Gopher protocol to explore how spatial metaphors could be used to organize information and create social spaces.[9]

He is said to have coined or popularized the phrase "surfing the Internet.".[1] However, prior to McCahill's first use of the phrase in February, 1992, the analogy was used in a comic Book, The Adventures of Captain Internet and CERF Boy, published in October, 1991 by one of the early Internet Service Providers, CERFnet.[10]

Later work[edit]

In April 2007, McCahill left the University of Minnesota to join the Office of Information Technology at Duke University as an architect of 3-D learning and collaborative systems.[1] A major focus of his later work has been virtual worlds, and he was one of six principal architects of the Croquet Project.[11]

Virtual worlds[edit]

In February 2010, Mark McCahill was revealed by the philosopher Peter Ludlow (also known by the pseudonym Urizenus Sklar) to be the Internet persona Pixeleen Mistral, a noted "tabloid reporter" covering virtual worlds who was the editor of Ludlow's newspaper The Alphaville Herald.[12] In a 2016 interview with Leo Laporte, McCahill said that his involvement with developing the Croquet Project had led him into contact with Second Life and that he had become interested in the sociology of virtual worlds. As Pixeleen Mistral, he was a prominent reporter on Second Life, and a celebrity inside the game, although his real identity was not known by anyone for many years.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "University Of Minnesota / Internet pioneer making move to Duke faculty". Twin Cities. 2007-04-01. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  2. ^ a b Gihring, Tim. "The rise and fall of the Gopher protocol". Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  3. ^ "For Inventor of Eudora, Great Fame, No Fortune". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  4. ^ "Internet Pioneers – Lost in Cyberspace". The Economist. 1999-12-16.
  5. ^ "How Gopher Nearly Won the Internet". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2016-09-05.
  6. ^ "The rise and fall of the Gopher protocol". 2016-08-11.
  7. ^ "The Gopher Project: Early Internet and U of M Libraries | Minitex News". Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  8. ^ "Oral History Interview with Mark P. McCahill". Charles Babbage Institute. 2001-09-13.
  9. ^ Chen, Chaomei (2013). Information Visualisation and Virtual Environments. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 187. ISBN 978-1-4471-3622-4.
  10. ^ The Adventures of Captain Internet And CERF Boy. 1991.
  11. ^ "Mark McCahill, Collaborative Systems Architect". Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Pixeleen Mistral Files Legal Response to Venkman's DMCA Abuses". The Alphaville Herald. February 6, 2010.
  13. ^ "Mark McCahill". Triangulation. Episode 264. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.

External links[edit]