The loony United States Patent and Trademark Office have decided that Eolas own the patent on the idea of a web browser automatically calling a helper application.
Therefore, any browser that doesn’t prompt for a user to confirm before allowing FlashPlayer to show Flash, a movie player to show a movie clip or passing control to the PDF plugin contravenes Eolas’ patent.
So, assuming that Microsoft don’t want to pay a license in perpetuity for including Eolas’ “idea” in a product they distribute for free, our choices are
- the Eolas-circumventing version of IE that Microsoft released in beta, which pops up the Dialogue Box of Doom requiring the user to confirm any non-html content, or
- the non-Standard attributes that Microsoft proposed.
(I detail all of these in an article about Eolas I wrote two years ago for DMXzone.)
Stuart Langridge writes, “I say support Eolas, and let’s keep the web HTML”. I disagree. I love html, but the Web is not just for us Standards-luvvies. For the vast majority of people, the Web is equally animation, video, sound and entertainment.
So this patent setback will make the Web even more unusable and clunky (and we’ve all been terribly excited by the promise of Ajax to declunkify the Web). And isn’t the fact that everyone may be unthinkingly clicking “yes” to dialogue boxes a fantastic bonanza to Spyware and virus writers?
The one-man Eolas company may very well damage the Web, and they have a history of dreadful business practices, like the recent attempt to cash in on the misery of those affected by Hurricaine Katrina. Nice!
PS: America, what the fuck is up with your patent system? Sort it out, or I will personally lead a British army to bring you back into the colonial fold.
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