What If Tim Berners-Lee Had Patented The Web?

from the it-would-be-quite-different dept

You may have seen the stories a week or so ago about how it was the 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee putting up the first web page. While many, many people still confuse "the web" with "the internet," Berners-Lee's creation really did help take what was mostly a system used by a few nerds (myself include) and add the elements that made it possible to go mainstream in a big, big, big way. And while many folks are talking about just how amazingly far we've come in just 20 years, Marco Arment (the InstaPaper guy) reminds us that if Berners-Lee had sought and received a patent for the web, it would just now be coming out of patent coverage.

That sets up an interesting thought experiment. Where do you think the world would be today if the World Wide Web had been patented? Here are a few guesses:
  • Rather than an open World Wide Web, most people would have remained on proprietary, walled gardens, like AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy and Delphi. While those might have eventually run afoul of the patents, since they were large companies or backed by large companies, those would have been the few willing to pay the licensing fee.
  • The innovation level in terms of the web would have been drastically limited. Concepts like AJAX, real time info, etc. would not be present or would be in their infancy. The only companies "innovating" on these issues would be those few large players, and they wouldn't even think of the value of such things.
  • No Google. Search would be dismal, and limited to only the proprietary system you were on.
  • Most people's use of online services would be more about "consumption" than "communication." There would still be chat rooms and such, but there wouldn't be massive public communication developments like blogs and Twitter. There might be some social networking elements, but they would be very rudimentary within the walled garden.
  • No iPhone. While some might see this as separate from the web, I disagree. I don't think we'd see quite the same interest or rise in smartphones without the web. Would we see limited proprietary "AOL phones?" Possibly, but with a fragmented market and not as much value, I doubt there's the necessary ecosystem to go as far as the iPhone.
  • Open internet limited by lawsuit. There would still be an open internet, and things like gopher and Usenet would have grown and been able to do a little innovation. However, if gopher tried to expand to be more web like, we would have seen a legal fight that not only delayed innovation, but limited the arenas in which we innovated.
What else do people think might have happened? I'd also argue that Berners-Lee himself would hardly be a name that most people knew about. When you think about just how limiting a world this would have been compared to what we have today... and then begin to wonder about what "web-like" invention of today is now locked up under patents, it really makes you wonder just how much we've held back innovation in this arena.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    MAFIAA

    As we speak MAFIAA executives are working on a time machine to go back to 1991 and make this happen.

    (Well it stands more chance of success than their present strategy!)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Wow, talk about a fishing trip without any bait! Mike, you are truly, truly reaching.

    Before the "web", there was Archie, Veronica, and any number of other ways to access information. If the "web" hadn't caught on (had been patented out of use, as you fear), then we might be on the UCS (universal computer system) using "super text" to create "system pages" instead of websites.

    The words would change, but the song remains the same.

    See, you have a major blind spot when it comes to patents. You see a single patent as a fence, one that stops you completely and totally from any forward progress. But in reality, that fence is at best one section long, and not attached at either end. In the same manner that IP networking routes around a restriction, real life tends to work around and other blockages. So instead of a world wide web, we might have started out with a huge collection of interconnected BBSes, in real time, that would have kicked off social networking 20 years sooner.

    See, what happened is a result of a series of things. What would have happened otherwise might have given different results, but the results may have been better or worse than our current place. Perhaps instead of being stuck with the horrible restrictions of HTML, we might have used another sort of language to communicate data between systems. Maybe it would have been more interactive to start with, more graphical, etc.

    Your post is quality lulz, but not much more. It makes you look pretty desperate to slam the patent system.

     

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      Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

      Re:

      You see a single patent as a fence, one that stops you completely and totally from any forward progress. But in reality, that fence is at best one section long, and not attached at either end.

      If that was true no one would ever bother to file a patent.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

      Re:

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      Now this is quality Trolling!.

      You answered the question, attacked Mike, spewed Pro-Patent propaganda, and even managed to toss in a bit of philosophy.

      Personally, my favorite part is your summation where you try to put yourself on a pedestal by claiming Mike's desperate...

      Fantastic work!

       

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        anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:36pm

        Re: Re:

        I love how condescending this anonymous idiot is. See, if only people could just understand the things his brilliant mind understands, then they would realize he deserves to be rich without ever working a day in his life. It is his birthright because he is so brilliant. Everyone is is so dumb compared to this super-intelligent anonymous coward. Nobody could possibly think of the things he thinks of, because he is very special you see. Very special.

         

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      JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

      You must be joking...

      Yes. Before the web there was stuff on the Internet.

      Some of us were even here. Doubt you were.

      I am very certain that you would have never ventured forth upon it if you were restricted to the state of the Net in 1990. Nor would most people for that matter. The entire Internet thing would never have happened.

      This is no exaggeration.

      Never mind the iPhone. The PC might not have taken off as well as it did in the late 90s without Netscape as a killer app.

      > See, you have a major blind spot when it comes
      > to patents. You see a single patent as a fence,
      > one that stops you completely and totally from
      > any forward progress.

      That's exactly what a patent is, BY DESIGN.

      That is why they need to be treated like nuclear weapons and not jelly babies.

      Interconnected BBSes? Really...

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

        Re: You must be joking...

        You said: "Some of us were even here. Doubt you were."

        Yeah, hmm... somewhere in my notes I still have the IP address for the soft drink machine. I can remember a time when a 110 baud dial up connection and a paper terminal were considered luxuries. Yup, you are right, I wasn't there.

        The point remains, that if the "web" was somehow patent (unlikely, as there was prior art all over the place, consider services like Alex, Teldon, and others), there would have been another solution. In the same manner that MS-dos was not the only operating system solution, there are always other ways to accomplish what we desire. Heck, telnet, mail, and others are all other protocols that operate over IP, and I am sure there are plenty of others that could have replaced "html" style page displays.

        Those who oppose patents on principal seem unable to understand the idea that more than one road leads to Rome. There is the proverbial "more than one way to skin a cat". A patent is a single section of fence in a wide open field. You are only stuck behind it as long as you don't look for alternate paths.

        As for the BBSes, not interconnected like the primitive message passing systems that existed back in the day that could get a message from one place to another in days, but rather a much more instant connection, like our current email systems.

        Mike is looking for a way to slam patents that appeals to the Techdirt masses. It's an amusing story, but it's just not very realistic.

         

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          anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          I guess we know what someone's income comes from. Patents are the ultimate extension of capitalism. The idea of looking beyond your own greed, selfishness, and arrogance seems impossible for you people. But, that is capitalism.... doing what is best for YOU, then developing a philosophy to rationalize your sins. GFY

           

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            Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 7:18pm

            Re: Patents are the ultimate extension of capitalism.

            No, they are an artifact of mercantilism—the idea that businesses cannot flourish unless they are carefully protected against competition.

            Capitalism is fundamentally different—it believes that competition is beneficial. Patent monopolies are completely at odds with that.

             

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          MrWilson, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          There are alternatives to the patents that exist. And most of them involve huge financial costs, which is what the current patent system forces.

          If people have to be overly creative just to get around asinine restrictions, it doesn't mean the system works because those alternatives are available. The fact that those alternatives are necessary is evidence that there is a problem.

          If people are prohibited from making the obvious and convenient 1-button checkout option available on their online store because one particular company patented it first, then your patent system is broken.

           

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          Simple Mind (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          You completely miss the point. The point I read into the article is that nobody would have gained by having web patented. By arguing that if web was patented there would still be workarounds you are actually making his case.

          I was also there at the beginning. I was used to using ftp and usenet and didn't grasp the implications when a colleague showed me the first web page. You still don't seem to have grasped it.

          Also, you haven't been paying attention if you think that prior-art would actually keep somebody from getting a software patent.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

            Not workarounds, that is way to simplistic. Different methods, different systems entirely. Remember, the "web" is just one a ton of protocols that runs over the IP network, perhaps no different from your beloved P2P. You don't have to have one to have the other.

            Mike is acting as if a patent would have stopped the train in the station for 20 years, but it's just not the case. I have always maintained that patents are perhaps one of the best ways to encourage innovation, but encouraging people to find completely alternate solutions, rather than waiting 20 years for a patent to expire. You know, real innovation, not just painting something a new color and calling it innovation.

             

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              JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

              ...except you are trying to ignore the fact that this is exactly how patents work.

              Once you patent something, you effectively own that thing and poison the rest of the market from trying to invent or re-invent anything similar enough to trigger patent litigation.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 8:49pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                Think past the end of your nose for a second, what exactly would he patent?

                HTML? Good, it's fairly incomplete and a true pain, without standards for proper page positioning and such.

                http: and the //? Good riddance.

                hyperlinks? Not a hope, prior art.

                Computer networks? not a hope, web is only a protocol, not "the internet".

                So, exactly what would he have patent that could not have been achieved using a different protocol and method?

                 

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                  Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 7:58am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                  "Using single tags or tag pairs (eg, as text) to mark off sections and define their formatting, where nesting is allowed so that attributes of an outer layer may apply to nesting layers under certain circumstances, where one such predefined section type gives a name that refers to visual images that could be anywhere on the public Internet and another such section refers to the name of an application or other protocol to use to interpret the data of that section that is either embedded directly or otherwise referenced and found anywhere on the public Internet, and a subset of these sections are usually composed together in the viewer software...."

                  .. There might need to be a few more key, if broad, details.

                  Patents tend to take close variations of existing material and simply change a little of the context (eg, so that it applies to the public Internet). Also, the language would use jargon of technical but vague items that apparently impress the USPTO or at least help add a physical material to the deal.

                  How can patent authors get away with such broad patents?

                  One important reason is that the inventiveness standard is the law books is extremely low (and hence stifling); an invention essentially need only be "non-obvious" to a person having "ordinary" skill in the art.

                   

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                    Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:03am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                    @Anonymous Coward: I have never taken out a patent and am not a lawyer. I also just thought for a moment this morning after reading your comment, so if you think this hypothetical claim section fails on some count or is easy to get around (and if you get back to this thread), please follow up with a comment and I will try to improve it.

                     

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                    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:30am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                    Sadly, the claims are all both broad, and also subject to prior art at the time that HTML came around. Start and end tags are as old as most programming languages (the proverbial for... next loop is more than enough to cover that).

                    Basically, I could go through the list, but in the end, it's a fail because there was nothing new there at all. html at best is another protocol in a sea of protocols, and would likely not get a patent beyond it's face value. Much of what is in the quote is stuff that would apply in part of in total to other protocols that existed before html came along.

                    It's an amusing ideas, but since it isn't support by facts, Mike's whole rambling post is just another way to stir up the Techdirt masses. He knows it's full of crap, but he put it up anyway.

                    Too bad he can't spend more time talking about the reasons why the NYT firewall is working. That would be a business model discussion I would love to see.

                     

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                      Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 9:15am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                      You did a horrible job replying. I hope you will try again.

                      You see, you can't take each small part of a patent claim in isolation. You have to take the entire thing. One word in the claim can mean the difference between something being novel or not. All those components I threw in there are required (ie, logical AND).

                      I did not claim tags. I claimed tags such that X Y Z.

                      I am sure you know what I am talking about if you know a bit about patents as you appear to do, so I do hope you later find the time to reply properly.

                       

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                        Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 9:51am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                        I had to run with this last posting, so I rushed it a bit.

                        I noticed that perhaps you interpreted the example I gave as being numerous claims. No, I did not use correct English grammar, likely, but the intent was that all of those conditions would fall under a single claim.

                        I also thought you stated you were bailing out (I misread), so I wasn't criticizing or mocking you in suggesting you might not have time to reply.

                         

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              anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

              That is the most absurd argument I have ever heard. Patents encourage innovation by forcing people to truly innovate? Innovation requires countless prior innovations to build from, and your precious patents halt innovation on derivative works. Hey, I have an idea, lets let the poor people starve while we live in luxury, never knowing real work or discomfort. That way, they will be forced to discover some novel alternative to food. Such as Soylent Green. Your argument sounds absolutely stupid. You are stupid.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:36am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                Wow.

                Can you please slow down and think for a second? let's try a real world, school playground example, something that you are probably familiar with at this point in your life:

                There is monkey bar set in the playground. One kid figures out how to get to the top, but won't tell anyone how he did it. Now, what do the other kids do? Do they just say "oh, he did it, we will stop", or do they spend their efforts trying to come up with their own ways to accomplish a similar goal? Maybe someone ends up climbing up on top of the swing set or something instead, and provides another "climbing innovation" to the school yard.

                Innovation, patent or not, do not stop others from thinking and attempting to accomplish the same goal, often through different means.

                A patent is often a way that the possible is revealed. Others then look at the possible, and try to do better. Since they don't want to pay to license the patent, they look for other ways to accomplish a similar, possibly better solution. It's why you can have a thing like Blu-ray and HD-DVD, two different solutions to the same problem, or the old VHS / Betamax debate. There is almost always more than one way to accomplish a goal.

                The rest of your post is sort of "student raving about nothing" horsecrap, the old "starving masses" crap that makes me want to puke. Grow up!

                 

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                  Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 9:55am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                  You are implying independent invention is a legit and obvious patent infringement defense. It is not .. from what I hear.

                  So your monkey bars example should instead be that once one kid got to the top, no one else would be able to get to the top on that monkey bar by, say, touching lower monkey bars (since patent claims are devastatingly broad). And the kid who got the patent, can wait and let many get to the top that way and then sue everyone.

                   

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                  Natanael L (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                  No, that would be like if that kid consistently demand money from anybody trying to climb anything and had the teachers punish those who won't pay up. People would stop climbing.

                  If you seriously think that boh HDDVD and Blueray existed at once because of patents, then I think you're a bit stupid. Alternatives would be explored anyway!

                   

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                  Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 4:07am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

                  "There is monkey bar set in the playground. One kid figures out how to get to the top, but won't tell anyone how he did it. Now, what do the other kids do? Do they just say "oh, he did it, we will stop", or do they spend their efforts trying to come up with their own ways to accomplish a similar goal? Maybe someone ends up climbing up on top of the swing set or something instead, and provides another "climbing innovation" to the school yard."

                  Sorry im 12 and dont fully understand this analogy, it sounds strange though im sure it sounded better in your head, if you meant to suggest though that when my dad was 12 the 14yr old bully worked out that if he climbed up the jungle gym using his daddies gloves he could get to the top easily, he then decided to sit at the top of the jungle gym [and hired some other bullies to sit along the rest of his path up the jungle gym] stepping on all the other kids hands who tried to climb up, saying "you cant get up without the magic gloves, ill lend them to you though for % of your weekly allowance", if that was what you meant to suggest id have to agree, cause
                  I saw that bully at the top of the jungle gym [hes like really old and sad now] the other day, still taxing all the kids, and because i was inspired by your advice, that there is always another way, i decided to climb up the tree around it and absail down onto the jungle gym just to prove that you were right, about there always being a more stupid and difficult way [albeit far more elegant and pro] to remake the wheel.

                   

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              anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:06pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

              That is the most absurd argument I have ever heard. Patents encourage innovation by forcing people to truly innovate? Innovation requires countless prior innovations to build from, and your precious patents halt innovation on derivative works. Hey, I have an idea, lets let the poor people starve while we live in luxury, never knowing real work or discomfort. That way, they will be forced to discover some novel alternative to food. Such as Soylent Green. Your argument sounds absolutely stupid. You are stupid.

               

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              Natanael L (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:43pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

              A patent on linked digital data would not have been like stopping a train in the station. It would have been like blowing up every train and every station in the world with nukes.

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          "It's okay if the most popular functions of the internet were patented, someone would have found a workaround, and patented it, and eventually the internet would be formed by a collection of hacked-together protocols and few sites and services would actually communicate with one another

          I literally just said everything Mike has said and managed to find a way to insult him in the process."

          It's hilarious and saddening, really.

           

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          anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:15pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          Don't you mean a phone number for the soft drink machine? I know you think you are brilliant, but everyone sees you and your ridiculously hopeless arguments for the trash it is. In the past, it is elitists like you who get put to death when all those who actually work for a living rise up in revolt.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 8:51pm

            Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

            Nope, there was a soft drink machine, at MIT I think it was, that was "networked". You could access it via telnet or archie, and find out how many cans were in each slot, how cold they were, etc. All this so that the thirsty students one floor up wouldn't have to come down if the machine was empty or the drinks were warm.

            You would know that, but I suspect that your "history" goes all the way back to IE8.

             

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          JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:28pm

          Re: Re: You must be joking...

          NO you weren't. You couldn't have been. You certainly can't be so out of touch as to try and claim that your imagined alternative could have possibly gained any traction as a popular phenomenon.

          Otherwise, the old school services that predated the web would have been much more successful and taken the place that was eventually taken by the web.

          Your "alternatives" were already there and they failed miserably.

           

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            Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:16am

            Re: Re: Re: You must be joking...

            Not just that, but if those older protocols (along with the web) had been patented (including whatever AOL and others could have pulled off), and if we kept going back patenting everything the USPTO would accept by today's standards... because that is what Anon is suggesting is good for society ... then we'd clearly be in even more of a pickle.

            BTW, I offered a initial attempt at a patent claim in an earlier comment (with the various disclosures explaining it might be a very weak initial attempt) in case Anon wants to look at it. Given how little experience I have, it should be easy to shoot it down as well as whatever else I can come up with this week without the help of a patent attorney and historian.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 2:42pm

        Re: You must be joking...

        Yes, it was called FIDONet

         

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      Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:29pm

      Re:

      You see a single patent as a fence, one that stops you completely and totally from any forward progress. But in reality, that fence is at best one section long, and not attached at either end.

      But there isn't just one section of fence - there are 10,000,000 of them!

       

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      Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      You see a single patent as a fence, one that stops you completely and totally from any forward progress. But in reality, that fence is at best one section long, and not attached at either end.

      But there isn't just one section of fence - there are 10,000,000 of them!

      That one is fake - but it shows the trend!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

      Re:

      11/10

       

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        Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re:

        It would sure stink if you clever comment had to be taken down because of a patent claim made against it.

        And I say this as one "ordinarily" skilled in the process art of writing online who found your work to be "non-obvious". That is, I found the "non-obvious" use of the palindrome technique (for hiding the accurate rating on parent's comment) to have been something I, an "ordinary" writer, probably would not have done without at least a few more tries.

        I, thus, can't help but to worry somewhat that many better writers have already attempted to patent that process, and that the USPTO, with "blogging" being so young, likely awarded one or more of them such a patent only within the last few years.

         

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      Matthew (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

      Re:

      As written, perhaps, but in practice, there are so many small sections of fence out there that you can barely take a step in any direction without stepping over one.

      Also, they're often practically invisible so that you don't know you've crossed someone else's fence until their lawyer is knocking on your door demanding rent.

      And they're movable fences, so...ok...analogy broken.

      Speaking of quality lulz..."If patents had prevented the web we might have had something even better. Stupid open standards produced a crappy internet!" That's an all-expenses paid vacation to Fantasy Island.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

        Re: Re:

        You said: "Speaking of quality lulz..."If patents had prevented the web we might have had something even better. Stupid open standards produced a crappy internet!" That's an all-expenses paid vacation to Fantasy Island.
        "

        Me: How ignorant! What if the week after the "web" was patent someone came along with an open source system that more easily allowed for page positioning, for actual "everyone sees it the same way" processing, and that was completely open source from end to end, without exception?

        Has Mike taught you not to think, or is it a natural state?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Me: How ignorant! What if the week after the "web" was patent someone came along with an open source system that more easily allowed for page positioning, for actual "everyone sees it the same way" processing, and that was completely open source from end to end, without exception?"


          Have any more assumptions about alternate realities that are unrealistic that you want to make?

          "Maybe if the web was patented, SOMETHING TEN TIMES BETTER WOULD COME OUT TOMORROW MADE BY TIME TRAVELING COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED, THIS IS HOW PATENTS WORK".

          Truly, you have graced the internet with your extensive knowledge of technological progression. Maybe if lawyers had run the technology industry of yesteryear and completely patented every piece of new technology that was being made during the rise of the electronic computer and have patented every component and manufacturing process needed for its function, we would have had psychic quantum computers that use cheap solid state drives by now.

          Damn those freetards making everything free and open like the damn freedom hating communists that they are. I need to go rant on a useless tangent now on a technology blog before finishing my half-baked stream of consciousness with the equivalent of "MIKE UR GAY".

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 10:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You said: "Have any more assumptions about alternate realities that are unrealistic that you want to make?"

            Me: Perhaps you should ask Mike about that, he seems to have sunk to the realm of the "could" and "what if" posting system. Where there is a lack of credible information or facts, let's daydream instead.

            We don't know what would have happened if HTML was somehow copyright or patent. I do know however that even before the "web" there was plenty of interactive between computer systems, both over the internet, through dialup, and even using x.25 packet networks. The direction of things, even then, was pretty clear.

            For my money, html just happened to be what not only seemed to work, but that got the boost because of Andressen and the whole Mosiac / Netscape thing. Without a credible browser, one that was readily available, we likely would have gone in another direction to accomplish similar goals (and might have gotten a standard that actually works better).

            We don't know.

            The rest of your post is just insulting dribble. Too bad you waste all of your intelligence on putting up such stupidity rather than actually thinking things through.

             

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              Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 10:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You are only looking at the specific http protocol, yet patents tend to be much broader than that so that adjusting the details of the protocol would likely still lead to violation.

              You should also realize that anger against patent supporters is well founded because these are injunctions and/or high costs and destruction of what many have spent a great deal of time and care building through what many people would consider honest means. Patents clearly over-reach. They are an embarrassment and stifle. It's not just a bunch of engineers and VCs saying this. Researchers also agree.

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So if a tech is locked behind a patent we wait for an open solution to save us, brilliant pro-patent argument.

           

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          Zot-Sindi, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Has Mike taught you not to think, or is it a natural state?


          Has not thinking about anything other than Mike (whether directly or related to some scheme) just come naturally for you, or is that just part of ploy?

           

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          Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          >> What if the week after the "web" was patent someone came along with an open source system that more easily allowed for ...

          Then it would likely still infringe on the inevitably broad web patent that would have been taken out.. by someone who wouldn't even recognize the "broken" Berners-Lee web, much less the improved open source Web 2.0, and would want to claim credit for both web inventions.

           

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          Natanael L (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:37pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So you're saying that patents are a waste of money because they have no real effect on anything?

           

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        JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:29pm

        Re: Re:

        ...starts to sound like a mine field rather than a fence.

        Watch your step. Don't move or you will go BOOM and your friends will be picking parts of you off their jacket.

         

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      a sad dude (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      then we might be on the UCS (universal computer system) using "super text" to create "system pages" instead of websites.

      And be sued immediately for patent infringement, driven to bankruptcy and cut off the Internet (or a landline for that matter). And don't you start lying about "independent invention", you freetard.

       

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      Natanael L (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

      HTTP is not HTML.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 7:59pm

      Re:

      "See, you have a major blind spot when it comes to patents. You see a single patent as a fence, one that stops you completely and totally from any forward progress. But in reality, that fence is at best one section long, and not attached at either end."


      Even if I were to concede that a patent-as-a-fence is not attached at either end, it's never clear exactly where that section of fence ends. The only way to determine its length is through expensive litigation and therefore might as well be attached because businesses will still be loathe to innovate anywhere in the general neighborhood of that fence.

      It's not the patent, per se that is the problem, it's the time and expense of having the courts define the metes and bounds of that patent.

       

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      cliff, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 7:22am

      That innovation would have "routed around" patents

      You make an interesting point, but I don't think it works that way. What happens is that the large companies create large patent portfolios specifically to prevent this "routing around" from happening. They create "patent firewalls" in order to prevent any type of innovation that threatens their market share. The net result is that no one can create anything without violating some patent owned by a large company; and the net result is to thwart disruptive startups and make it possible for only the large corporations to play, since they can then trade patent licenses or afford to battle it out in court.

       

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    Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Really innovative

    You know the thing that shows how really innovative Tim Berners-Lee was?

    No patent troll has been able to find anything in their arsenal that can be stretched to cover it!

     

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      Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:45am

      Re: Really innovative

      >> No patent troll has been able to find anything in their arsenal that can be stretched to cover it!

      There is really the matter of State Street. TBL snuck in there just in time before the onslaught.

      As much as I understand you want to give TBL credit, it only takes a few one-click caliber patents to have brought down the original web, no matter how insightful the web may be in some aspect or other.

      In fact, in time we saw that many examples of web (pages) -- many examples of rather natural extensions to the web -- did end up violating many one-click type patents that snuck in there right between the web state of the art 20 years ago but ahead of much of what came after it.

       

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    Chickenhead, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    A better what-if...

    ...what if Ted Nelson had not cooked up Project Xanadu? There would be no World Wide Web. Xanadu, despite being superior in many ways to what we call the Web, was also hideously hobbled by Nelson & Co's heavy handed control over it (proprietary is an UNDERSTATEMENT). In addition, the "too many chefs in the kitchen" syndrome made Xanadu a promise that was never fulfilled...which led CERN and Berners-Lee to cook up the WWW. The Web wasn't born out of a vacuum, people just got sick of waiting for Xanadu. And meanwhile, Gopher already existed and was gaining rudimentary multimedia extensions...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

      Re: A better what-if...

      More proprietary than the iphone? I do believe xanadu went beyond the impossible, ten times over.

       

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      James Jones (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 11:16am

      Re: A better what-if...

      Kind of like Calvin Mooers's TRAC, which Nelson wrote about at some length in Computer Lib/Dream Machines. Mooers protected his IP very well--so darned well that it's at best a historical footnote.

       

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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    I remember reading an interview with one of the guys who invented the MIDI protocol. Which was released as an open standard.

    He was asked if he regretted that he never forced licenses on it, because if he had, he would have clearly been rich because MIDI became ubiquitous.

    His answer was great, and I wish I could find that interview now. He replied something along the lines of, If we had forced licensing on MIDI, it never would have became ubiquitous, and I'd be exactly as "rich" as I am now.

    I bet the interviewer was perplexed by that answer. He's an idiot for even asking the question.

     

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      cc (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

      Re:

      "If only they had patented it.

      Kusek, along with Dave Smith and the other people responsible for creating MIDI could have made millions with MIDI, but he remains philosophical about this missed opportunity. "Maybe the reason why it took off was that it was absolutely free," he says. "It was a compact way of representing music in a simple and cheap format."

      Kusek has learned to appreciate and even extol the benefits of free and open access to music. He helped create musical notation software and was instrumental in developing enhanced CDs for the commercial market. He supports the creation of a music utility to "monetize" the immense wave of file-sharing that has become standard operating procedure in the industry."

      http://www.musicpowernetwork.com/Resources/CyclesinMusic/tabid/119/Default.aspx

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

      Re:

      Again, it all depends. If he was out asking for million dollar licenses, yes, he likely would have no more money and MIDI would be a footnote in history. But if he had licensed it for $1 for the first 10,000,000 devices, and then $2 after that, he likely would be a very rich man today.

      Patent doesn't mean greed, that is another one of the Techdirt urban legends.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Patents come from the goodness of their hearts.

         

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          anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:52pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          LOL, yes, it is not greed, it is capitalism ;o. These people rationalize their own behavior to themselves. You have to understand that there is no winning an argument with them. Their income and self-worth depends on them believing in this philosophy. Therefore, they will never deviate. They will, however, continue to come up with new ways to spin the argument around, hoping to confuse people enough to continue unabated with their greed.

           

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        anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Why do you keep commenting, spreading your propaganda? Clearly you are one of those elitist who believes yourself so brilliant that any passing idea you have should entitle you to be a very rich man for the rest of your life. Anyway, shut up and quit trolling. It is a sign of a very weak position when you have to keep repeating yourself. Are you trying to convince your own self that your actions aren't sinful? They are greedy, selfish, and sinful. That is the fact you will never be able to get beyond.

         

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          Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          >> Patent doesn't mean greed, that is another one of the Techdirt urban legends.

          Merridant's Websber definition

          patent (n): GREED GREED GREED greedy greedily greed GREED GREED GREED!

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Wow! This anonymous coward has the ability to see into alternate dimensions!

        Clearly if the MIDI standard cost even more than a dime, a free solution would have NEVER been made!

        Despite the fact that you say, not more than a few minutes ago, that patent walls are just tiny little fences in which people sidestep all of the time.

        We should ban free solutions so time-traveling patent-friendly programmers don't lose hard-earned cash to freetards who are making freetarded software.

         

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        anin42, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

        Re: Re:

        Because we all know getting 'rich' is what life is all about. What else is there? You are so stupid.

         

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        Richard (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:38pm

        Re: Re:

        . But if he had licensed it for $1

        It's not the price it's the hassle - stupid.

         

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          Jose_X, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 9:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          $1 is too high of a tax on information bits (even if no hassle) if you intend that information to spread widely, as is the case for people writing open source software.

          If you have to pay 1 cent for every web page you visit (and each web page likely took much more than 1 cent's worth of time to create), then most people could not indulge on the web.

          To quote a Wikipedia entry suggesting $1 might make for a very high barrier to dissemination >> Paulo Coelho is a strong advocate of spreading his books through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. A fan posted a Russian translation of one of his novels online. Sales of his book jumped from 3,000 to one million in three years, with no additional promotion or publicity from his publishers.

           

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    John Doe, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Ben Franklin didn't patent either

    Ben Franklin invented the Franklin wood stove, bifocals and lightning rods among many other things. He considered these things to be beneficial to people and didn't patent them. I guess he didn't understand the idea that you need patents and copyrights to innovate either.

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:37pm

      Re: Ben Franklin didn't patent either

      "I guess he didn't understand the idea that you need patents and copyrights to innovate either."

      Yeah, Ben was incredibly anti-capitalist. Only a commie would innovate without a government granted monopoly to profit from.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 6:55am

      Re: Ben Franklin didn't patent either

      The usual horse crap. You don't NEED patents to innovate, nobody ever claims that. However, patents and copyrights do encourage investment in "innovation". The idea that you can spend a bunch of money, and then be able to sell the resulting product without having someone rip it off 2 seconds after you release it is appealing, and financially more interesting.

      You don't need a patent or copyright to innovate. That is a Mike Masnick strawman, set up to try to make both look bad. All or nothing is the options he is putting out there, when there really is 1000 shades of grey in the middle.

      Strawmen suck, even if you agree with them.

       

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    JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    On the money, vs in the money.

    Perhaps the UK needs to put Mr. Berners-Lee on a 100 pound note. They can issue one for Turing while they are at it.

     

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    Scooters (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

    "No iPhone."

    Actually, this would be No Apple. If it wasn't for Napster's revolutionary distribution system of the mp3 format, Apple would never have sought production of the iPod.

    Without the iPod, well... chain of events.

    There's also be no Linux. This isn't an OS which was distributed on CD-ROM. It was distributed on the World Wide Web (LOLCats were complimentary).

    I wouldn't have a job, unless I'm screaming "Welcome to Walmart".

    Yeah, the internet is responsible for many things, including some dumbass in Washington announcing how it's responsible for "unadulterated theft".

    Unfortunately, one must take the bad with the tremendous amount of good.

     

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      Rich, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

      Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

      Actually, Linux was and still is distributed on CD.

       

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        Scooters (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 6:26pm

        Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

        Well, I will contend my belief is purely speculative, however, the point is being missed here.

        Linux's popularity was built from word of mouth, which was done via the world wide web (moreso the internet). In addition, I can attest it was not distributed on CD-ROM when first introduced, because the CD-ROM hadn't been made available on PCs in mass production. They were very expensive when Linux was introduced.

        The first time I heard of Linux was from a friend downloading it on 33 floppy disks, not a CD, after hearing about it on a BBS. It took him nearly a month to obtain all the files since the connection kept dropping on his 14.4k modem.

        Usage of Linux didn't explode until the internet came along, and people saw a great opportunity to learn how to build web servers.

        The popularity of Linux and the internet go very well in hand, which is why I believe it would not "exist" today as it does.

        Sorry for the confusion.

         

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      Ima Fish (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

      Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

      "There's also be no Linux. This isn't an OS which was distributed on CD-ROM. It was distributed on the World Wide Web (LOLCats were complimentary)."

      Actually you're confusing the WWW standard with the internet in general. Linux probably didn't even have a WWW capable browser when it was first developed. And I'd guess that any updates came from FTP servers.

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

        Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

        Actually you're confusing the WWW standard with the internet in general. Linux probably didn't even have a WWW capable browser when it was first developed. And I'd guess that any updates came from FTP servers.


        Let's get technical for a second here.

        "Linux" refers to the kernel, not the apps. To this day, Linux doesn't have a web browser. Everything beyond the kernel is not Linux -- most of the core applications and utilities are (or were) Gnu.

        Linux was developed to make it possible for ordinary people to have a Unix system. Unix was the property of AT&T and was very expensive.

        The reason this is important is because the very first web browsers ran under Unix (and, when Linux came around, under that as well.) The web browser predates Linux, but not Unix. The web browser predate Windows by a millenia (in computer industry time.)

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

          But, nonetheless, the web was not critical to the development of Linux, and still isn't. The internet, however, was.

          While we're at it, the most popular programming language of today (C/C++) was itself originally written for a specific purpose: to write Unix itself in. Unix was the first OS that had real, solid support for the internet. One could argue that without Unix, we wouldn't have C/C++ or the internet as we know it.

           

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            Ima Fish (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

            "the web was not critical to the development of Linux"

            So after all of that verbiage, you agree with me. Thanks!

             

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              John Fenderson (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

              Indeed I was, in terms of your point! I guess I should have said that up front. The pendant in me got out of control :)

               

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          Any Mouse (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 6:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

          GNU/Linux: Project announce 1983
          Windows: First released 1985
          WWW: Proposal written 1989

          Umm, yeah... You're reading your history backwords. :)

          (All dates pulled from Wikipedia, look there for the citations at the bottom of the pages.)

           

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            davnel (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 3:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

            True, GNU was proposed in 1983 and Windows 1.01 was released in November of 1985, but Linus didn't start Linux until 1991.

             

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      Jeon, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 5:58pm

      Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

      "no apple?" I think I used the II-GS back in the mid 80s.

       

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        Marcel de Jong (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 3:11am

        Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

        No Apple *today*.
        If the Ipod had never been produced by Apple, the company would most likely have gone out of business. As it was a failing business when Jobs came back to Apple.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 5:19am

      Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

      Scooters, I distinctly remember Linux (and Minix before it) being distributed on floppies and CDs before the Internet.

      Berners-Lee announcement on August 6th, Linus announced on August 25h (1991). I doubt that it only took 19 days to develop Linux once the WWW was announced.

       

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        davnel (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 5:50am

        Re: Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

        Linus' first announcement and request went out on USENET, not the WWW. In fact, most of the early development communication occurred on USENET.

         

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      Steve, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 11:24am

      Re: I'd like to expand an example a bit further...

      web != internet

      The napster example stands, but Linux was developed on comp.os.minux which is a newsgroup on the internet but not the web.

       

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    HothMonster, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    from what i understand he tried to patent it but it conflicted with Al Gore's patent

     

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      Rich, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      Gore never said he invented the Internet. He said he "facilitated the creation of the Internet." Which is true, since he headed the committee that approved the necessary funding.

       

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re:

        Gore also chaired the meeting which charted the itinerary of the internet funding committee's decorations budget oversight committee. Without the necessary oversight they would've never know what color binders to use for the sub-committee.

         

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        HothMonster, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re:

        CNN interview 3/9/99; Al Gore:

        "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

        I imagine he took the initiative of by digging the tunnels for the tubes, connecting the tubes and making sure they were big enough for the appropriate sized trucks.

        /sarc

        I know he didn't mean he actually made the internet, but if he wants to make poorly formed self-serving comments and those get interpreted poorly or misconstrued its his fault not mine.

        Urban legend often becomes truer than fact, you can stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend otherwise.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          He said it badly, but what he clearly meant by his statement is, in fact, true. Gore took initiative in terms of funding without which the internet would not have been opened to the public -- it would have remained an academic & military network. Without his action, there would be no internet as we know it today.

          I'm no Gore fan, but I always found this particular comment about him to be so baseless that when I hear someone asserting it in a non-humorous way, I question the clarity of their other observations and opinions.

           

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          Mark, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 11:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So, let's see, he sat on a committee, heard a good idea, understood the vision, and then worked to remove barriers and provide funding to make the vision a reality.

          If he did this as CEO of a company, you'd call him a genius. Since he did this as chair of a government funding committee, you call his account "self-serving".

          Give the man credit where due. He saw where technology could go, and he used his influence to help make it happen.

           

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    I've read the Wiki: let's hold back innovation in this area!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_web
    Read down to the drawbacks.

    The commercial bottom-feeders are bad enoough, and Big Brother NEEDS the internet, so it was inevitable.

     

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    trish, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    :(

    we could have cars running on water and reduce damage to our planet. but... profit.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    I've read the Wiki: let's hold back innovation in this area!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_web
    Read down to the drawbacks.

    The commercial bottom-feeders are bad enoough, and Big Brother NEEDS the internet, so it was inevitable.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

    OMG! NN?(No Napster), NFB (no Facebook) my BFF will not exist in BFFBL (best friends forever buddy list). my BT (bit torrents)still light years away. ROTFLMAO !!!
    No RIAA? just think of the children moments???

     

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    JEDIDIAH, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Linux is older than the Web

    > There's also be no Linux. This isn't an OS
    > which was distributed on CD-ROM. It was
    > distributed on the World Wide Web (LOLCats were
    > complimentary).

    Not quite. Linux was distributed like any other bit
    of software in the early days. This included commercial
    distributions as well as compilations of free distributions.
    These were available widely and even in "normal" computer
    stores.

    Widely available broadband just made that less necessary. Although Linux typically still comes in the form of a CD image.

    The other core components of Linux predate the web by a great deal actually. These were also popular as enhancements for commercial Unix before the popularization of the Internet (web).

    A lot of Linux development and support still runs off of non-web or pre-web parts of the Internet.

     

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      Charles, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:58am

      Re: Linux is older than the Web

      I remember installing 386BSD from a CD I got at a local computer swap meet long before there was a world wide web. I used it to access Cleveland FreeNet via TymNet. So, there was a free version of Unix for PC hardware, which made setting up web and DNS servers very cheap. The low cost certainly helped the web grow fast. I think this drove Linux development, because we needed something better than FreeBSD and cheaper than SunOS.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Think of how much SAFER the children would be if the web had been patented!

     

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      Zot-Sindi, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      and.... the PIRATES... the TERRORISTS!!! we coulda got rid of them all!! had the interwebs been patented, those miserable good for nothing freetards, they ruined EVERYTHING!

       

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    Nicedoggy, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 3:47pm

    I remember when people laughed at the internet, people used to say "it only for nerds", "its a geek thing" and they laughed, some even said it was a fad, it was going nowhere.

    The mega corps ignored it and made jokes.

    Now they are not laughing anymore, people let to their own devices found uses and created an entire eco-system completely different from the reality outside their windows that transformed the world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 7:01pm

    The web would be like cable tv today.

    Fragmented.
    Disconnected.
    Pretentious.
    Awful.

     

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    davnel (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 3:08am

    Mail

    Mike:
    I generally agree with your excellent article. I do differ on one point, however. The corporate requirement for communication with it's employees would develop as it has. Therefore, the Microsoft Server suites, Mailserver, and the Blackberry or something similar, would have been developed. Perhaps not as well as today, but the functionality would be there. Also, wireless phones of some sort were inevitable.

     

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    merethan, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 4:00am

    Proprietary AOL phones?

    [quote]Would we see limited proprietary "AOL phones?" Possibly, but with a fragmented market and not as much value, I doubt there's the necessary ecosystem to go as far as the iPhone.[/quote]

    Not at all unlikely. But those would have faded away very quickly too. Does anybody remember DoCoMo's iMode?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMode

     

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    Mike, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 5:03am

    He'd have a castle to go along with his title...

    ...seriously. I think he would be living well off of the royalties of those who wanted to commercialize it.

     

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    redog, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    Missing option

    There would be no google...enough said?

     

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    Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Hilarious

    The Internet runs on Ethernet, Sonet, DSL, DOCSIS, GON, Wi-Fi, and cellular technologies, all of which are patented and licensed. You can't do a single thing on the Internet without touching a patented technology.

    This is probably the worst article ever written about intellectual property.

     

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      Natanael L (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 3:06pm

      Re: Hilarious

      So how many of those are specific to the internet? How many are general? Sure there's no way to build a patent free device that can access the internet according to standards?
      Also, most of those patents are directly related to hardware, in which case the patent license almost always only stands for a fraction of the cost. Not so very similiar with protocols and software.

       

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        Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 3:16pm

        Re: Re: Hilarious

        The point is that most networking patents are filed in order to license the invention to as many users as possible. Network technologies become more valuable as more people use them.

        It's perfectly reasonable to imagine a history of the web in which a patented technology would have allowed the web to develop more rapidly and with greater compatibility and uniformity than the way it did.

        Patents haven't hurt iPhone or Android.

         

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

      Re: Hilarious

      This is probably the worst article ever written about intellectual property.


      Coming from you, Richard, I take that to be a compliment and a sign that I got it exactly right. :)

       

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        Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:13pm

        Re: Re: Hilarious

        You're just jealous that I have patents and you don't. Life is just not fair.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 12th, 2011 @ 10:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

          You're just jealous that I have patents and you don't. Life is just not fair.


          As always, Richard, you make me laugh. I've turned down multiple opportunities to get a patent. Why would I ever want to stop people from innovating. You, on the other hand...

           

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            Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 3:50am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

            Come on, who do you think you're kidding? If you have a patent you can make it freely available to others to use, and you can keep the patent factories from getting ahold of it.

             

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              Jay (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 7:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

              Did you not read one word about how vague the patents have become and all their downfalls?

               

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                Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                It's my experience that most of the web chatter about the wickedness of patents is generated by people who don't do creative work for a living and have no real understanding of how the patent system actually works.

                If examiners are granting patents that are too "vague," that's a knock on the examiner, not on the concept of patents.

                The bottom line is that people who invent things need to get paid, one way or another. The next iPhone isn't going to be invented by a homeless bum, it will come from a group of people getting paid to dream it up and put it together.

                Masnick and the other patent-haters seem to think inventions just fall out of the sky, but it's not really like that.

                 

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                  Modplan (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 9:19pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                  If examiners are granting patents that are too "vague," that's a knock on the examiner, not on the concept of patents.

                  So we solve patent system problems, like the granting of more and more low quality patents producing defensive patenting practices and large amounts of pointless litigation, by firing all of the patent examiners?

                  Or are you saying the huge amount of low quality, unnecessary patents are purely the work of 1 or 2 bad examiners?

                   

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                    Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 13th, 2011 @ 9:33pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                    If innocent people are being convicted of crimes and sent to jail, the remedy is not to abolish the laws against rape and murder, it's to improve the criminal justice system.

                    Do the math.

                     

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                      Jay (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 8:37am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      The fact that you have to jump on from civil laws of patents to the criminal law of rape and murder to apply to one's ethos says wonders for your argument (or lack thereof).

                       

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                      Jay (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 8:43am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      "If examiners are granting patents that are too "vague," that's a knock on the examiner, not on the concept of patents. "

                      And where were you when American Life was exposing the incentives for patent trolling?

                      "The bottom line is that people who invent things need to get paid, one way or another. The next iPhone isn't going to be invented by a homeless bum, it will come from a group of people getting paid to dream it up and put it together."

                      I don't know why you're comparing a bum to apple, but you're neglecting all of the people that actually do independent research on tech.

                      And last I checked, some of the startups that have come out for technology have been stymied by the IP trolls, or are you neglecting that argument to say "everyone must be paid?"

                       

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                        Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 1:40pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                        My knowledge of the patent system is from first-hand experience with the patent filings I've made that were accepted or rejected, not from watching TV shows.

                         

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                          Modplan (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                          So you deny factual evidence of patent law abuses because it's on a TV show?

                          P.S. Actually, it was a podcast.

                          http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/when-patents-attack

                          Also, I'm not sure how your experience in getting (I assume) vague patents covering inventions that (I assume) did not necessarily need your expertise to be created somehow makes you more of an authority on the subject than people who actually take notice of problems pointed out by actual studies and research.

                           

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                            Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:49pm

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                            It was a podcast?

                            My goodness, that changes everything.

                            Actually, I listened to it and found it was just typical tabloid stuff. Nothing really informative, but plenty of raw insinuation. IOW, the typical journalism major's take on the human side of issues they don't actually grasp in substance.

                             

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                              Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:54pm

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                              It was a podcast?


                              It wasn't a podcast. It's one of the most successful radio shows on the planet, with an award winning reporting team.

                              But, you're not a big fan of facts.

                              Actually, I listened to it and found it was just typical tabloid stuff

                              Then you didn't listen to it. Funny that you called it a TV show. Then called it a podcast, rather than a radio show. And then pretended you'd listened to it.

                              Hilarious. Richard, you're digging yourself a deeper and deeper hole.

                               

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                          Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:34pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                          My knowledge of the patent system is from first-hand experience with the patent filings I've made that were accepted or rejected, not from watching TV shows

                          Aha. So you're a beneficiary of the system, and we're supposed to take your word for it? I assume your opinion on welfare programs is that the only people qualified to comment on them are welfare queens, right? After all, they have first hand experience.

                          Anyone who actually understands economics and has data and research shouldn't comment, since they don't have that first-hand experience.

                          Richard: the fact that you base your opinions of the patent system on the fact that you're one of the beneficiaries automatically disqualifies you from being taken seriously about it. I trust those who are indifferent to the system, rather than those who suck from its teat.

                           

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                            Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:47pm

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                            So invention deadbeats are more credible than inventors on the subject of invention and innovation?

                            That's a novel POV.

                             

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                      Modplan (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:02am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      As already pointed out, conflating patent infringement with rape and murder does your argument no justice.

                      Second of all, nine tenths of the law is definition. If the law had such a broad definition of murder or rape that someone by any ordinary definition of the term is innocent would be arrested and even convicted, or the law allowed for abuses of such law, then yes, we should probably change the law.

                      Though I did ask you a direct question on whether the number of bad patents getting through is solely the act of a few bad examiners, or getting rid of all of them. That was effectively your proposed equivalent of improving the criminal justice system in your (incredibly bad) analogy, but how would that solve the sheer number of patent applications and the time pressures to get through that backlog? How would that solve the low standards applied particularly in software? How would that compare to evidence indicating patents aren't needed, or are only rarely needed? How would that solve the low standard of disclosure in patents?

                       

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                  davnel (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 7:28am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                  Richard:
                  Don't pay any attention to the idiots. You're essentially correct. The real problem with the patent office is the same problem that exists in the FDA. Too many applications that are too complicated (unnecessarily), too few really qualified examiners, and too little time for a proper examination. Most applications are an excercise in obfuscation with the main purpose being a snow job on the PTO to get a quick patent issued. There should be a secondary review process instituted to eliminate the "so what" factor and to be able to pass the laugh test, BEFORE the final patent is issued. Maybe something like peer-review by a panel of reasonably expert engineers. Unfortunately, the range of possible subject matter pretty much precludes that approach, but we need something similar.

                   

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                  Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:29pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                  It's my experience that most of the web chatter about the wickedness of patents is generated by people who don't do creative work for a living and have no real understanding of how the patent system actually works.

                  It's my experience that this is completely bullshit. I deal with real entrepreneurs day in and day out. Richard does not. He deals with "policy people" who don't know shit.

                  And I can tell you that it's near 100% of the entrepreneurs I talk to who say the patent system sucks.

                  But, furthermore, why is it that we should ask those who abuse the system whether or not it works?

                  If examiners are granting patents that are too "vague," that's a knock on the examiner, not on the concept of patents.

                  And yet, when nearly all patents are too vague, then that's a condemnation of the system. But that's not the key condemnation of the system anyway. What I have on my side is the economic evidence that patents hold back innovation.

                  What Richard has is his own biases as a patent recipient who can't let go of the idea that he's a genius, so data means nothing to him.

                  The bottom line is that people who invent things need to get paid, one way or another.

                  Really? Richard, when did you become a communist and support that people should get paid no matter what the market says? That's so funny, because you always presented yourself as a free market capitalist. I'm surprised to see you admitting that you think people deserve to get paid solely because they did some work, not based on what the market says.

                  In the meantime, patents have nothing to do with "getting paid." You get paid by selling a *product* not for patenting something.

                  The next iPhone isn't going to be invented by a homeless bum, it will come from a group of people getting paid to dream it up and put it together.

                  Sure. But what does that have to do with patents? Nothing.

                  Masnick and the other patent-haters seem to think inventions just fall out of the sky, but it's not really like that.


                  I've never said that at all. In fact, I've pointed to the actual research which backs me up: inventions come from needs and market demand.

                  Richard, it's pretty weak when you have to stoop to flat out lying about me.

                   

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                    Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:44pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                    Actually, Mike, most of the people I deal with are technologists, like myself, who create, build, and run systems based on patented technologies. Even if I only talked to myself, that would put me in better company in terms of patent experience than people who live in a world of hearsay.

                    Inventions come from people who are paid to invent or some similar economic interest in inventing. These processes gave us the transistor, the integrated circuit, the microprocessor, the dynamic RAM, and all the networks that we use every day. Inventions come from people, not from immaterial forces.

                    Invent something, then you can carry on about innovation with some credibility.

                     

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                      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:53pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      Inventions come from people who are paid to invent or some similar economic interest in inventing. These processes gave us the transistor, the integrated circuit, the microprocessor, the dynamic RAM, and all the networks that we use every day. Inventions come from people, not from immaterial forces.


                      Inventions come from people. But you are pretending that patents were needed for those inventions.

                      Invent something, then you can carry on about innovation with some credibility.


                      Learn some economics. Then you can carry on about economics with some credibility. Until then, you're just a welfare queen arguing that he needs more welfare.

                       

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              Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:24pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

              Come on, who do you think you're kidding? If you have a patent you can make it freely available to others to use, and you can keep the patent factories from getting ahold of it.

              Patents grant a single right, Richard, which you should know if you're such an expert on the patent system: it grants a right to exclude. Some of us know, because we actually understand these things, that excluding people harms innovation. So no, it makes no sense to get a patent (whose sole right is the right to exclude) if the plan is to make it freely available.

              You, however, prefer to exclude others and hold back innovation. But, we've established that already. Richard is paid to be anti-innovation.

               

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                Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:39pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                You're wrong about what "I'm paid to be," the nature of patent rights, and the nature of innovation. But other than that, you're on a roll.

                Next time you use Ethernet over UTP or Wi-Fi, think of their inventors. That group would include me.

                Now what have you done, Mike? Oh, you write a blog. Well, that's a start.

                 

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                  Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 9:51pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                  You're wrong about what "I'm paid to be," the nature of patent rights, and the nature of innovation. But other than that, you're on a roll.

                  As I've said, in my experience, Richard, whenever you say something, I know the opposite is true. You have lied about me multiple times and I have corrected you. What's funny is that when I talk to you in person and actually explain to you my position, you finally realize that you actually agree with me, and admit that you had me pegged wrong.

                  And then you show up here and forget all that and lie again.

                  Little child, grow up.

                  Next time you use Ethernet over UTP or Wi-Fi, think of their inventors. That group would include me.


                  As always, Richard Bennett is a legend in his own mind... and no one else's.

                  Now what have you done, Mike? Oh, you write a blog. Well, that's a start.


                  You know one thing I haven't done? Gone running like a baby to the gov't for a monopoly.

                   

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                    Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 10:06pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                    Thanks for demonstrating how little respect you have for the people who create the technologies your blog depends on, Mike. I'm quite well known in the standards community for my work on Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

                    I wouldn't say that I've ever agreed with you on any important part of the patents and copyrights issue; the closest would be the belief that some of your empirical claims would be interesting if they were true. When I research them, I generally find they aren't.

                    The patent right, like the gun ownership right, is in the Constitution. I don't expect that we're going to be amending either of those rights away, even though many bloggers are opposed to both of them.

                     

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                      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 10:21pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      Thanks for demonstrating how little respect you have for the people who create the technologies your blog depends on, Mike.

                      Richard, I have tremendous respect and know many of the people who created the technologies this blog depends on. What's funny is that none of them seem to know who you are.

                      Mike. I'm quite well known in the standards community for my work on Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

                      The only people who seem to know your name these days are policy people who find you either a useful idiot or a joke.

                      I wouldn't say that I've ever agreed with you on any important part of the patents and copyrights issue; the closest would be the belief that some of your empirical claims would be interesting if they were true. When I research them, I generally find they aren't.

                      Bullshit. What have I ever said that turned out to not be true? State it here or admit you're making up stuff as usual.

                      The patent right, like the gun ownership right, is in the Constitution.

                      False. The Constitution grants Congress the *right* to set up a patent system. It does not guarantee nor require patents. But, again, that's neither here nor there, since no one is arguing that the system is unconstitutional, so why even bring it up?

                      Of course, if you want to open that door, I can make you look foolish there too. The Constitution is explicit that a patent system may *ONLY* be used if it "promotes the progress of the useful arts" (science was for copyright). Since we now have overwhelming evidence that much of the patent system does not, in fact, promote the progress of the useful arts, then much of the patent system is unconstitutional.

                      Note that I did not say all of it, nor have I ever (despite Richard's typical lie) said that the entire system needs to be abolished. I simply want a system that promotes the progress, as *required* by the Constitution.

                      But Richard is neither an economist, nor a Constitutional scholar. He's someone who runs to the gov't whining for a monopoly and he gets pissy when some of us point out that he's putting a hand out for welfare.

                       

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                    Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 10:35pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                    My, now you're even more shrill and childish than usual.

                    Why don't you see if you can't calm yourself down a bit before I have to explain statutory construction to you. They probably didn't cover that too well in journalism school.

                    Clue: When you starting attacking what you think I do for a living rather than responding to the points I raised, you lost the argument. The rest of this is just cleaning up.

                     

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                      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 14th, 2011 @ 11:00pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                      My, now you're even more shrill and childish than usual.


                      Hilarious. Please read your initial comments on this thread, and then tell me who's being "shrill and childish." Richard, if I'm childish to you on this site, it's because you have a long history of being a complete and utter nincompoop here, and it's Sunday night and I felt like it might be fun to watch you act the fool. Bravo. You performed as expected.

                      Why don't you see if you can't calm yourself down a bit before I have to explain statutory construction to you.

                      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh gosh. Stop making me laugh. Richard thinks he knows the Constitution. Dude. Don't. Start.

                      They probably didn't cover that too well in journalism school.

                      I wouldn't know. I didn't go to journalism school. But, as we've proven before, you're not a big one for facts.

                      Clue: When you starting attacking what you think I do for a living rather than responding to the points I raised, you lost the argument. The rest of this is just cleaning up

                      Richard, darling, when you decided to act like an idiot on my blog, the race was over. Enjoy cleaning up aisle 5 where your spilled milk is. Cry, cry.

                       

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                        Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 15th, 2011 @ 12:28am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                        What history do I have on this blog? Years go by between my visits, it's not even on my Top 100 list.

                        You claim to know a lot about me, including my professional history and reputation, but never to have met anyone who knows me. Not surprisingly, you're making stuff up..

                        But hey, you're a former marketing clerk with a degree in labor relations with an obscure blog that's hungry for traffic, so whatever floats your boat.

                         

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                          Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2011 @ 1:07am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                          What history do I have on this blog? Years go by between my visits, it's not even on my Top 100 list.


                          Please keep it that way.

                          You claim to know a lot about me, including my professional history and reputation, but never to have met anyone who knows me. Not surprisingly, you're making stuff up.

                          I've met plenty of people who know you. I just said that the people who actually built the core tech of the internet don't seem to know you, despite your self-aggrandizing claims in that arena.

                          But hey, you're a former marketing clerk with a degree in labor relations with an obscure blog that's hungry for traffic, so whatever floats your boat

                          Oh look. Someone finally looked up what kind of degree I got. Hilarious. This is the point where you were supposed to say "sorry, Mike, I made an assumption, and I was wrong." You're also wrong about me being a "clerk."

                          Oh, and trust me, I'm not hungry for traffic. Techdirt gets more traffic than I ever dreamed of. But, since you want to keep making stuff up... please do go on.

                           

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                            Richard Bennett (profile), Aug 15th, 2011 @ 2:21am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                            Ha, now you've really stepped in it. Do you even know who built the core technology of the Internet? Apparently not. In addition to the well known pair of Cerf and Kahn, the key players were Louis Pouzin, Alex McKenzie, Dave Walden, Bob Metcalfe, Steve Crocker, Yogen Dalal, Gerard LeLann, and John Day.

                            How many of them have you asked about me?

                            I can rattle off a similar list for Ethernet and Wi-Fi, but you wouldn't recognize their names (or contributions) either. Give it up, you're digging ever deeper. If your goal is to establish yourself A's the Michelle Bachmann of intellectual property, you're off to a great start.

                             

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                              Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2011 @ 2:35am

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hilarious

                              Ha, now you've really stepped in it.

                              I've stepped in what? Your ego?

                              Richard, you're not nearly as well known in real tech circles as you think you are.

                              I'm still waiting for your apology on the lies you've stated about me here. Why do I get the feeling I'll keep waiting?

                              What, your ego too big to admit you know fuck all about me?

                               

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    Ben, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    nice try

    Tim Berners-Lee only 'invented' a marked up document accessible over networks similar to the then DARPA network that eventually became HTML. It was only just a novel arrangement of text and presentation instructions. He could not have prevented people accessing a document with content and presentation instructions embedded inside it over a netwrok with a patent any more than Xerox could have stopped Apple from using a GUI and pointing device. Nice intellectual exercise though.

     

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    evanh, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Apple would be dead

    Not just no iPhone, also no iPod/iTunes. Apple was being squeezed out of it's last niche of DTP and would have then died.

    MSN would have been a different beast that would have gone on to crush every other Internet based services.

     

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    Srini, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:26pm

    Infinite Jest ???

    Hey !

    Have you read the massive novel Infinite Jest ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_Jest

    The key to its inscrutable nature is that it is secretly An Alternative History Such As You Suggested, one which the Internet was under the control of one company who builds like a totally immersive Netflix experience over it.

    Then a genius comes up with an infinitely absorbing film, one which hypnotizes viewers into hitting Repeat infinitely, and then weird wheelchair revolutionaries from Quebec put that film on the network, and all history ends....

    You Should Read It

     

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    Phil, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 12:25am

    Patient the web

    If Tim patented the web there would be propriety HTTP from one walled garden to another. Totalitarian regimes around the world would be gleeful. China would be happy with the Sino-net with sino-protocols that would ensure incompatibility with the wider world.

     

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    bbb, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    my god what a crock of shit

     

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    Mr. Oizo, Aug 15th, 2011 @ 4:56pm

    To Mr. Masnick: you're impolite

    and it makes your otherwise interesting blog loose a couple of IQ points.

     

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