February 12, 2002


I’ve been reading about BT’s hyperlink patent today. I actually tried reading the patent itself, but that’s a mouthful. Popular opinion seems to be that it’s a non-issue and it’ll just blow over. I agree with that. Not only is it indescribably silly, I just can’t see it holding up legally, or the patent being found to apply to HTML. But it seems not everyone is that optimistic. Well, not optimistic in that way, anyway. This article has quotes from some programmers that scares me more than anything about the patent itself.

But programmers said it wouldn’t be too difficult to come up with another way to propel people through Web pages. And it’s a job they’d happily take on, they said, because BT’s court case has infuriated them….

“If BT won the right to collect fees-per-click you’d have a ton of seriously pissed-off programmers, with all the financial resources of every big business in the U.S. who has anything to do with the Internet behind them, working on coming up with a new protocol,” open-source developer Mike Markan said.

So these Open Source guys want to give in to BT and throw out the entire idea of <a href="">? Am I reading that right? That seems worse than anything proposed in the legal case. Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong, but the knee-jerk Open Source reaction seems to be one of throwing out the basic linking structure of HTML itself for some “new protocol,” rather than fighting BT with everything they’ve got. The web is built on standard protocols. HTML and hyperlinking are the most basic of these. Fracturing of HTML on this scale is something that we might not recover from, especially if most everyone has to keep using the old, patented, ways for “backwards compatibility”. If BT wins, we might have a dark future, but hopefully not as dark as these guys are suggesting.

Who should we be more scared of?

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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