This article will examine the Z39.50 Information Retrieval protocol. It will look at some of the history of the protocol, its operation, and some of the major projects that have made use of it. There has been enough written (perhaps too much) about Z39.50 in the last several years so it is not intended to be a tutorial or detailed description of the protocol. The material that will be presented will try and put some context around the discussion. For those readers who are interested in delving into Z39.50 in a more technical manner, references to much of the material that has been written about it over the years will be provided at the end. Finally, the article will conclude with some thoughts on how technology and technological infrastructure have changed in the years since Z39.50 was initially developed and deployed, and where the protocol has so far lived up to its goals, and where it has perhaps failed to meet some of the high expectations that at least some people involved in the Z39.50 community held for it. The article will conclude with some of the author’s speculations (and they are really no more than that) of what the future role of Z39.50 is likely to be.
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