Mark P. McCahill

Mark P. McCahill (Mark Perry McCahill)
Born (1956-02-07) February 7, 1956
Nationality United States
Occupation Programmer/systems architect
Known for Inventing 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 been involved in developing and popularizing a number of Internet technologies since the late 1980s.

McCahill led the development of the Gopher protocol, the effective predecessor of the World Wide Web, he was involved in creating and codifying the standard for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and he led the development of POPmail, one of the first e-mail clients which had a foundational influence on later e-mail clients and the popularization of graphical user interfaces in Internet technologies more broadly. He also coined the phrase "surfing the Internet."[1][2][3]

He currently works at the Office of Information Technology at Duke University as an architect of 3-D learning and collaborative systems. A major focus of his later work has been virtual worlds, and he was one of six principal architects of the Croquet Project. He is also a noted writer on virtual worlds as his "tabloid reporter" avatar and pseudonym "Pixeleen Mistral."


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's microcomputer support group as an Apple II and CDC Cyber programmer.

Internet pioneer

In 1989, McCahill led the team at the University of Minnesota that developed one of the first popular Internet e-mail clients, POPmail, for the Macintosh (and later the PC). The usage of graphical user interface clients for Internet standards-based protocols proved to be one of the dominant themes in the popularization of the Internet. 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 continue to be present in modern-day e-mail clients.

In 1991, McCahill led the original Gopher development team[4] (Farhad Anklesaria, Paul Lindner, Daniel Torrey, Bob Alberti), which invented a simple way to navigate distributed information resources on the Internet. 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.[5]

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).

In 1994-95 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. While there was significant interest in the mid-1990s in 3D Internet-enabled information/social spaces (see VRML), the limitied capabilities of mainstream hardware resulted in little uptake of these technologies. Mark McCahill was involved in the Croquet project along with David P. Reed, Andreas Raab, David A Smith, Julian Lombardi, and Alan Kay.

Later work

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.[6]

Virtual worlds

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.[7] 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.[8]


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