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What If Tim Berners-Lee Had Patented the Web?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the welcome-to-compuserve-again dept.

Patents 154

An anonymous reader writes "Last week Slashdot had the story that the web had turned 20 years old. Of course, patents also last 20 years, which has resulted in some asking what would have happened if Tim Berners-Lee had patented the web? Thankfully, he didn't (and wouldn't). But we'd be living in a very different (and probably less interesting) world if he had."

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gopher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075190)

Then gopher would have been developed into something similar.

Re:gopher (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075636)

Marc Andreesen would have been flipping burgers.

Jim Clark would have joined Trip HAwkins, and gotten rich with 3DO.

One of our astronauts would have come back from a solo mission, strangely... different.

No (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077410)

Marc Andreesen would have exploited the environment provided, as he did.

Jim Clark would have disappeared from view after an unfortunate Las Vegas incident with a transgender prostitute.

All of our astronauts came back from their missions strangely... different. Having been there makes you different. As we are defined by our experiences, exceptional experiences make us different. They change us.

Re:gopher (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075852)

Then gopher would have been developed into something similar.

There were so many other potential software packages that were doing essentially the same thing that the web was doing that I'd have to agree with this statement. It should be noted that SGML was already being used when Tim Berners-Lee introduced the sub-set that is known as HTML. It was already an interenational standard, as was HTTP, which was mostly a re-worked variant of FTP and other similar file transfer protocols.

Re:gopher (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076280)

Not to mention that SGML was developed from older markup languages dating all the way back to the 1960s. Like most "modern" technology, it too came out of that great wave of computational development and research from the early 1960s into the early 1970s.

Mind you, we have companies patenting metadata extensions to SGML-derivatives and suing major software companies over it, so I don't suppose it would matter in the least.

Re:gopher (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076432)

But "something similar" would have been patent infringing and, if it had taken off, implementers of gopher browsers would have been sued. Of course, 20 years ago, software patents were a bit dubious. There were some that had been granted, but it was a fuzzy gray area and whether they could be enforced or not was up in the air. As for business method patents, anyone sane could assure you that business method patents weren't ever going to be acceptable.

Re:gopher (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077304)

Since Gopher existed before the web we know it as of today there was prior art. It would just have been a different implementation.

The fact that Gopher died was because www took off and Gopher was commercial protocol.

Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075192)

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.

Well, he could have patented it and if he had tried to exercise those patents, my guess is that people would have been put off until a better more liberating solution came along that circumvented those very patents. It's odd that Techdirt mentions Gopher protocol. That was licensed software and, as I've speculated before [slashdot.org] , died because it cost money to use.

Techdirt's usually a good read but I don't agree with his assessment on this one. I believe we would have a completely different protocol and paradigm that might have taken longer to achieve and might have been better or worse. Who's to know? I think Gopher's example makes it plenty obvious that any patented solution limping along would be ravenously devoured by an open alternative.

Had it been patented, I simply don't believe it would have been the final solution.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075516)

Hrm.. There's a question: if we had stuck with gopher-based internet, would monkey punching flash ads still have happened?

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075568)

yes just as the Internet grew from text to graphics to monkey punching

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075728)

yes just as the Internet grew from text to graphics to monkey punching

Oh, is "monkey punching" what the kids are calling it these days? We used to call it, "boxing with the bishop".

"Monkey punching" - I like it, and it is without a doubt the true purpose of the Internet, followed closely by marketing stuff to people that they do not want.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (2)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076750)

Unfortunately, I think he meant those ads that said "PUNCH THE MONKEY TO WIN". I like your version better, though.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077312)

Beat the meat based on what you find on the internet would also have happened. Before www got big it was on FTP and FSP sites.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

maverickjesterx (2434230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075536)

Anyone remember "Sneaker net"

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075932)

No. Please enlighten us, Mr. 2434230.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076686)

High uids doesnt make someone twelve.

Assuming you have a low uid, perhaps those make you an asshole.

My guess though is you have an even higher uid and posted anon to not let the cat out of the bag.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077056)

Actually, AC has a UID of 666 [slashdot.org] , so it is much lower. Not that the GP isn't being a retarded dipshit, and having a low UID doesn't prevent that, just look at No. 137 [slashdot.org] .

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077316)

I have worn out a few sneakers by now.

And the deep-frozen yellow garden hose - that's something to have a love/hate-relationship to. Add a DELNI to it too. (I have one somewhere together with a dot matrix printer with serial interface)

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (2)

mickwd (196449) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075610)

Here in the UK, the big news recently has been the riots. The majority of the public is disgusted with the behaviour of many of those taking part - they were only interested in taking a load of stuff for free, lining their own pockets, and not giving a damn for any damage done to the overall public good.

People are using software patents in the same manner, for the same reasons. It's a wholly-unjustifiable free-for-all money grab.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (2)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076202)

It's odd that Techdirt mentions Gopher protocol. That was licensed software and, as I've speculated before [slashdot.org] , died because it cost money to use.

I remember gopher. Once network bandwidth expanded enough, gopher died a death because it was ugly and hard to use. The killer feature of HTTP was HTML; being able to link arbitrarily from any document to any other was incredibly useful. Gopher had index pages - with nothing but links - and link-less leaf pages; real world data isn't that neat. Inlined pictures and forms and SSL, for all that they have caused so much grief since, just hammered home how little anyone really wanted Gopher's restrictions. HTTP itself though, that was a less-than-brilliant protocol to start out with; 1.0 was a giant step forward, as was 1.1 (though it's difficult to implement fully, hence it being done in libraries).

Not that Gopher couldn't serve HTML (I remember hacking it to do so) and I started using Mosaic for real when I found it was a much nicer Gopher client than the others available at the time (xgopher was ugly!) But the package - HTTP, HTML, inline images, forms, a non-awful client - was very potent; gopher's only chance was to effectively become what the web was, but instead it just got replaced.

Re:Probably Would Have Went the Way of Gopher (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077174)

Gopher was probably mentioned because Hyper-G (later morphing into VRweb) was a gopher inspired hyperlink system being worked on in Austria at the time.
I think they merely wrote something you don't agree with because they were aware of some things you missed. I didn't know about it either until the web had reached the point where even Microsoft were reacting to it.

Commodore PET (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37077352)

I would and still could patent the games and UI developments I made in high school on the Commodore Pet.

Down to the fact that I COPYRIGHTED THEM in my code!

Is this code, pre-existing patents?

I have it, printed in fine detail on dot matrix.

Every UI thing I thought of is enough to get a patent these days.

EVERYTHING predates Apple and Google.

I should post the code!

nobody would have used it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075208)

it was too primitive back then, and nothing would have come out of it. HTTP won because it was open/free. Look at worldnet services or what the BBS companies tried to do on the internet back then, and that would have been the death of the 'web' ...

It's IE all the way down! (4, Funny)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075210)

We would just download Word docs that point to each other.

Re:It's IE all the way down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076730)

404
Can not find: C:\Documents and Settings\Timmy Turtle\My Documents\word2007.docx

Re:It's IE all the way down! (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076906)

usenet could have been extended, to have indefinite retention, url-like constructs in messages

If he had (2)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075216)

Then Doug Engelbart would have sued him.

What if? (1)

deadcrow (946749) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075226)

What if evey sci-fi concept was used as prior art? I bet most of the patents would never get issued.

What if?

Re:What if? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075306)

What is people on /. knew what prior art meant?

what if?

Re:What if? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076044)

What if you understood what 'what if' means?

Re:What if? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075428)

"Prior Art" doesn't mean that someone thought of it before. Prior Art means that someone had implemented or made something very similar to the patent subject prior to the person applying beginning their work.

Re:What if? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075596)

Ergo, the question that I believe the GP was intending to ask(and how I initially interpreted the GP) is "What if prior art did not require a working device, but just proof that the idea had occurred before?"

Re:What if? (1)

deadcrow (946749) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075654)

Thanks for your understanding. It was an exercise in What If? Not statement of how things are. Some people can't take a joke.

Re:What if? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075808)

I think that'd be an even worse idea, then. You thought up something. So what? If you can't actually turn that idea into something, it's worthless.

Re:What if? (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076882)

They patents would probably still be issued, prior art isn't relevant until someone tries to enforce their patent.

Re:What if? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077336)

Just watch Max Headroom and you can see what the web can/will be (The use of a trojan is actually in that series made in '85 as well as a lot of other stuff).

Add some Gibson and you have the rest. There are a lot of other Cyberpunk authors that also provides interesting stuff that can be seen as prior art.

And the concept of the water bed is in public domain since it was described by Heinlein before it was common, so Science Fiction can definitely be seen as prior art. Time to start reading if you suffer from a lawsuit then.

Lame question is lame (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075234)

Then he would have been a raging faggot just like most of the posters to Slashdot.

Couldn't patent it. (1)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075280)

Others had prior art, from Xanadu to HyperCard. But thanks again anyway, TBL.

Re:Couldn't patent it. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075314)

Since when has prior art stopped a patent application? It had to be valid and novel, it's done with a computer .

Re:Couldn't patent it. (1)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075378)

HyperCard's done with a computer.

Re:Couldn't patent it. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075406)

Yes, but not on the Internet .

Re:Couldn't patent it. (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075980)

Yes, but not on the Internet .

Define internet please.

HyperCard was done on AppleTalk..... close enough that I don't think you can make a legal, mathematical, or rational distinction between the two.

Re:Couldn't patent it. (2)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076122)

Your fallacy is trying to apply logic to the patent system.

Re:Couldn't patent it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076816)

Yes, but not on the Internet .

Define internet please.

HyperCard was done on AppleTalk..... close enough that I don't think you can make a legal, mathematical, or rational distinction between the two.

internet: a network of networks.
Internet: a specific, global, internet.

Re:Couldn't patent it. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075416)

Yes, so it is also valid and novel! That is always the finding!

Patented what specifically? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075294)

It seems like there's a rash of articles lately assuming Berners-Lee patented the web as we know it. He didn't. What he invented is implemented by a tiny fraction of the code for a modern web browser. So you have to get much more specific about which of his innovations were patentable at the time, and what alternative technologies were available for those.

Re:Patented what specifically? (3, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075676)

He could have patented the thing he implemented and released over telnet in 1991 when I first tried it. Basically, the concept of a message from a resource that contained links to other resources, a server that delivered that message from the said resource over a simple protocol, and the format of the message and the mechanism of the said message's generation being transparent to the caller of the resource. With a computer, over the internet. In his articles at the time there was a lot written about different ways of displaying the said message. More than enough to cover all of the WWW as we know it.

What if the courts had guts? (2)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075356)

A bit of computer history: Honeywell and Sperry Rand battled over fundamental patents for computers. The courts essentially said, 'Atanansoff created those ideas years ago. Oh, and Dr. Atanasoff, it's too late for you to patent those ideas. Ta-ta.' From what I've been told, that 'ta-ta' was just a polite way of giving all of the parties the finger because the courts realized that allowing Sperry Rand to enforce their patents would hold back the computer industry by decades.

And queue up the... (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075384)

...Al Gore jokes. ;-)

(And yes I know what he said, but the truth still hasn't stopped the jokes)

Re:And queue up the... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075554)

but the truth still hasn't stopped the jokes)

The truth is the reason for the jokes. We all know what he said, just some people want to deny it.

"In a March 1999 interview with Wolf Blitzer, Gore said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."" http://www.perkel.com/politics/gore/internet.htm [perkel.com] . If you want to argue that he "promoted" the internet, fine, but to claim that "create" means simply "promote", you're wrong. Try telling the actual creators of JIF peanut butter that you created JIF peanut butter because you promote the brand and they'll laugh you into next week.

You want to laugh at Quayle because he used a valid but older spelling for "potatoe", then accept the hoots and howls when Gore talks about creating things.

Re:And queue up the... (3, Informative)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075842)

Al Gore brought the High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991 to Congress and got it passed. That was one of the fundamental pieces of legislation that took ARPANET from being a limited military/education network to the commercial Internet.

In Wikipedia it says:

Former Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Newt Gingrich also stated: "In all fairness, it's something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is -- and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a "futures group" -- the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the '80s began to actually happen."

I don't think saying his he created it is any more than normal political spin.

Re:And queue up the... (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076014)

From your link:

But the real question is what, if anything, did Gore actually do to create the modern Internet? According to Vincent Cerf, a senior vice president with MCI Worldcom who's been called the Father of the Internet, "The Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the Vice President in his current role and in his earlier role as Senator."

Jabbing at Quayle for misspelling potato is also not fair, though he attempted to correct a student who had spelled it correctly. I don't see why one unfair but true media frenzy should justify another unfair and false one. But forget the poatoe incident. The reason so many think of Quayle as a dolt is because he admonished a fictional character for getting pregnant. That, and his obviously shallow understanding of the issues. He was Sarah Palin before Sarah Palin was cool.

Ripping on Gore for picking Lieberman for Veep is totally legitimate.

Re:And queue up the... (2)

RoccamOccam (953524) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076220)

"... Ultimately, however, marriage is a moral issue that requires cultural consensus, and the use of social sanctions. Bearing babies irresponsibly is, simply, wrong. Failure to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this.

It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of a father, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”

I know it is not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it. Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood, network TV, the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think that most of us in this room know that some things are good, and other things are wrong. Now it’s time to make the discussion public...." -- Dan Quayle, May 19, 1992

Children born to unwed mothers in the US:
1990 - 28 percent
2008 - 41 percent

"[children brought up in single-mother homes] are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape (for the boys), 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home." -- Village Voice

Re:And queue up the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076460)

In typical U.S. "Christian " fashion Quayle fetishizes marriage and implores women to stop shitting out children out of wedlock, never chastising the men who can't show basic adult responsibility or *gasp* wear a fucking condom. If he really cared about the children or abortion, he'd have pushed for sex education and birth control. Instead he pushes for marriage.

  The man's a dolt.

Re:And queue up the... (3, Insightful)

tragedy (27079) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076626)

A few comments about those statistics.

First, "children born to unwed mothers" does not necessarily mean children raised by a single mother and no father, it just means children born to mothers who aren't yet married. In some times and places in the past (and even to a degree today in some places, even in the US), having a child out of wedlock could get you shunned, maybe even arrested, banished or executed. Sometimes it would all fall on the mother, sometimes on the mother and father, sometimes mostly on the father (pretty rare, of course). At some times, it was vitally important for the couple to marry the moment pregnancy was suspected, to conceal the fact that the child had been conceived out of wedlock. At other times, it was enough to marry some time before the birth so that the child wouldn't be born a "bastard". In the social context we're working in for the purpose of this discussion, there isn't really such a thing as a "bastard" or "illegitimate" child anymore. Sure, the word bastard still means what it means, but the connotations aren't what they once were. It's no longer necessary for a couple to marry to "legitimize" their children. For one thing, with the family court system and DNA testing, women aren't dependent on the father to make a public declaration of responsibility in the form of a marriage. For another, the social stigma of being a bastard has been reduced. So, when a couple who are not married are expecting a baby, far fewer of them feel the need to run out and get married right away to protect themselves and their child from scorn.

To make a long story short (too late), your "children born to unwed mothers" statistic doesn't tell us if that extra 13% isn't just couples who don't feel the need to rush into marriage anymore, but still stay together to raise the child. For that matter, it doesn't give us divorce statistics on the 72% who were married in 1990 vs the 59% in 2008. All it tells us is what percent of children were born to to mothers who weren't married in two different years, not what percentage of children were raised only by their mothers.

Secondly, your statistic from the Village Voice about "children brought up in single mother homes" (assuming that's what it actually says, since that part is paraphrased) tells us about statistics for children brought up in single mother homes, but doesn't differentiate between homes where the mother is single by choice and those where the mother is not. For that matter, it doesn't make any effort to account for the fact that single mother families are far more likely to also be low-income or poverty-stricken and to adjust for the typical increase in all sorts of crime statistics among lower income brackets.

In other words, the idea that fictional characters deciding to raise their children alone leads to social problems is not supported at all by the statistics you quote.

Re:And queue up the... (1)

RoccamOccam (953524) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076710)

I did not attempt to draw a correlation between the two. I merely showed his quote, which does not seem unreasonable, and showed statistics which appear to show that the issue is something about which society might justifiably be concerned. Apparently, you are not -- which is fine. However, I believe that people were looking for any excuse to mock Quayle, so they tried to trivialize the actual problem to which he was speaking.

Re:And queue up the... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076778)

The reason that Quayle (and Palin, for that matter) is mocked as a dolt is that the media decided to portray him as one. Politicians all say things that sound really dumb out of context. Nearly all politicians say things that sound dumb in context, because they're human. I could make Barack Obama sound like a blithering idiot with some well-chosen sound bites, and the same skill would let me make GW Bush sound like the greatest orator in decades.

Re:And queue up the... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076038)

I will give credit to Al Gore for helping to sponsor legislation that did help fund the early internet backbone. That at least deserves some sort of recognition. It was also his effort that put an e-mail server into the White House when he was elected Vice-President and even came up with the presidential e-mail address of president@whitehouse.gov. I don't know if it was him personally or one of his staffers, but he also was responsible for the "whitehouse.gov" domain to be registered. I think that counts for something, and in 1990 the internet was still very much a new thing that was just beginning to be used by politicians. Al Gore's predecessor, Dan Quayle, certainly didn't have an e-mail address until much later.

Much of this official adoption by the White House also legitimized the internet in a great many ways.... and it should be noted that Al Gore was also instrumental in getting the first web server started in the White House as one of the first federal web servers. That comparatively speaking these are much less grand than saying he was "the father of the internet", I do think some kudos are certainly earned on his part.

Re:And queue up the... (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076162)

Appropriate user name, have to say.

But I think that those of us who aren't sitting in the back row shooting spitballs at the smart kids - i.e., non-Republicans - Gore's statement was pretty much accurate. The Internet was not a physical invention, like routers and modems; it was an institutional one. Facilities around the country had to agree on a common set of protocols and conventions for routing information between them. Bringing ARPANET to the public took planning and legislation, and Gore understood the importance and the potential of it enough to lead the way. It wasn't just promotion and cheerleading. For this he took nothing but ridicule from the GOP, who thereby exposed themselves as a backward-looking bunch of knuckle-dragging cretins. No offense, of course, if you're one of them.

An encumbered web would never have taken off (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075388)

A significant factor in the WWW explosion is that it was coming into its own as a an alternative right about the time that the most popular gopher server implementation stopped being free and there were fears that alternative implementations might be subject to attempts to collect money from the same source.

An encumbered web would have reversed the incentive with regard to gopher v. WWW on that score

but he couldn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075404)

Software/Business Method patents are not valid in 95% of the world

So the only thing that would of happened is Americans would be without the WWW

I'm not sure it would be different (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075430)

What we know of today is that business after business start staking claim after claim over internet technology and space. Patenting "the internet" has been ongoing since the beginning. We have seen it in things like GIF related patents for example. We have seen a continuing flood of "on the internet" patents and all manner of nonsense. Admittedly, the worst of this has only taken place recently but it has been around for a long while. How many things "internet" did Microsoft try to highjack over all this time? So far, only Java (for web applets) and internet browsers come to mind at the moment. (But they sure made life fun in the early days where people left their file and printer sharing exposed to the internet the way they did. I found ALL KINDS of things with my war-scanner scripts.)

Having to pay the originators/inventors for the right to do things on the internet would have likely made it even more exclusive from the start where many startups happened because of the low cost of entry in the market. For bigger business, such costs are just the cost of doing business and would have been considered negligible even in those days.

All in all, I don't think we would have seen much difference. All we have witnessed is a lower cost of entry into the market.

Better yet (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075442)

What if DARPA had patented the internet?

Re:Better yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075498)

They would have lost contact with it.

What if Hitler had won in Britain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075448)

What if JFK hadn't been shot? What if Gorbachev hadn't had that big mark on his forehead? What if I'd just stayed silent instead of asking stupid hypothetical questions?

Re:What if Hitler had won in Britain? (2)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075822)

The difference is that you cannon unshoot JFK or go back in time and do a plastic surgery number on Gorby's head. But the MAFIAA goons are about to turn back the clock and do exactly that - they'll lobotomize the Internet and turn it into a bunch of walled, pay-for gardens where you'll only be able to do what they want you to do. And the lawmakers side with them, because power always sides with Big Money. Unless violent action is taken, this is what's in store for all of us.

Makes one wonder... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075474)

How many awesome changes for the next 20 years are prevented by today's patents?
How cool could the world be in 2031 if we had no (software) patents?

The same can be said..... (1)

maverickjesterx (2434230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075524)

I think about this a lot! Think about where we would be if the lawyers of today existed when say the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, radio, television, vcr (betamax anyone?) microwave, etc.... were invented. In general its not that people are narrow minded today, just extremely greedy! I mean really, especially Apple. BTW, I think new features in Lion really ripped off the look and feel of Gnome3 especially scrolling. I think the open source community should speak to some lawyers and sue Apple and force them to open source their GUI. I am sure Steve would not like that.

Re:The same can be said..... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075782)

Can't tell if trolling...

Re:The same can be said..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075958)

I don't think they are. I think they are actually that stupid.

Re:The same can be said..... (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076030)

Think about where we would be if the lawyers of today existed when say the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, radio, television, vcr (betamax anyone?) microwave, etc.... were invented.

They did. Same with patents. One hopes you are trolling and not genuinely this stupid.

A contrarian opinion (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075530)

Things would have been better because we would have pushed other avenues of science and technology more, such as space exploration and so on, rather than concentrate on the geeky and _inwards-looking_ pursuit of computers (and ultimately merging our brains with machines and living in virtual realities at the expense of real reality and outwards exploration). And I'm saying this as a computer scientists.

Re:A contrarian opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075656)

stfu

Re:A contrarian opinion (1)

maverickjesterx (2434230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075764)

umm technology made space travel possible!

Re:A contrarian opinion (1)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075790)

I disagree. The overwhelming trend in computer networking ever since the 60s has been towards higher and higher global connectivity. Slowly at first, and then an explosion. The infrastructure of the Internet was being developed with or without HTTP. If HTTP became proprietary another more open protocol, if not Gopher, would have taken its place eventually. Maybe we would have been sandboxed inside of online services for a little bit longer, but it would eventually have occurred to somebody to use Ted Nelson's idea of hypertext - which was already floating out there - on the Internet.

People are information machines. Connecting them together electronically was only a matter of time.

It's still not clear what the economic incentive to travel in space is, exactly, or how to realize those incentives in an economically profitable manner. However the economic benefits of direct and persistent inter-connectivity have been obvious for a long time.

Can ask this about a lot (2)

ThanatosMinor (1046978) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075574)

I often wonder what the state of things would be if software and business method patents had been allowed 50 years earlier.

Quicksort (and others) would be patented, as would the very idea of software encryption. Codebook + on a computer = patent!

Some random company would have patented it... (1)

nurrud (729050) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075618)

later and would get it's patent approved. If it's a big company with big bucks for lawyers, even prior art wouldn't get it revoked. Most companies would not want and/or be able to afford to litigate (assuming the big companies would not immediately see it's value as happened with Tim's invention).

He can always patent it now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075630)

What's stopping him? Certainly now the Patent Office.

Patents don't last 20 years (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075680)

They begin when they are granted and last for 20 years from the initial application date. Due to the stunningly inefficient PTO (Patent and Trademark Office), my last four patents took seven years from application to grant date, so each patent will last a little less than 13 years.

What If Tim Berners-Lee Had Patented the Web? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075744)

Then we'd all be using Gopher.

Stop the hysteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075880)

We'd all be paying a small licensing fee and everything else would be the same. The software and hardware we use to access the WWW is full of patents, why would a patent on the WWW cause the world to end? I think we would get by. Nothing to see here folks.

Airbags? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37075938)

If someone had patented the web, I imagine it would have gone down the toilet and become irrelevant like other technologies such as airbags, or WIFI.

He answered this himself in 1997 (3, Informative)

sootman (158191) | more than 3 years ago | (#37075992)

Tim Berners-Lee in Wired, March 1997 [wired.com]

Do you wish you'd started the Web as a business?
 
If I'd started "Web Inc." it would have been just another proprietary system. You wouldn't have had this universality. For something like the Web to exist, it has to be based on public, nonproprietary standards.

PS: That's Sir [slashdot.org] Tim Berners-Lee to you, bub. :-)

Re:He answered this himself in 1997 (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076112)

I recognize neither royalty nor its granted titles. :-)

Re:He answered this himself in 1997 (1, Informative)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076194)

Sorry, the thirteenth amendment was held off by courts as it would ban lawyers from titling themselves "esq" (and an unrelated amendment got its number). Thus, being an US citizen doesn't prevent Tim Berners-Lee from being granted nobility by the country of his birth.

Re:He answered this himself in 1997 (2)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076624)

Hardly forces you to recognize a granted title though.

Re:He answered this himself in 1997 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076952)

Sorry, the thirteenth amendment was held off by courts as it would ban lawyers from titling themselves "esq" (and an unrelated amendment got its number). Thus, being an US citizen doesn't prevent Tim Berners-Lee from being granted nobility by the country of his birth.

What? No. http://www.quatloos.com/13th_amendement.htm

Gopher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076040)

Gopher would still be around. Still like Gopher better.

Dumb question? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076098)

Someone else would have come up with some other tagging system? HTML was derived from existing markup system.

troff (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076496)

My first response would be "how could you patent a syntactical gloss over troff?", but I guess you can patent pretty much anything these days.

With his first $100 Billion... (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076628)

He might have brought us 4G wireless by 1998. With his second $100B, he may have cured cancer. While I share the /. community's disgust with patent trolls, SLAPP lawsuits, and (especially) patent exhaustion doctrine extentions, I think you also have to ask what would have happened if Thomas Edison hadn't patented the light bulb. Would he still have raised the money to bring it to scale, and would we still have created demand for utilities? Or would more people be in the dark? Is it the "freeness" of the web which made internet widespread, or is it the money that was to be made by people selling computers?

Re:With his first $100 Billion... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076850)

The technologies that implement the data transfer that makes the Internet a viable operation are the hardest part, because they deal with real physical limits. The protocols were secondary - look at the success of AOL and MSN in the immediate pre-massive-Internet era, ca. 1992-1995, working on the same 14.4k, 28.8k, and 33.6k modems that were the original end-user implementation of the Internet.

In 1994, my small university (~2500 undergrads) leased a 56k line to a nearby public university, and provided eight 2400 bps modems as a dialup pool. They were almost never all in use. By 1997, 2/3 of the campus was using the freshly installed Ethernet.

In short, I'd say that the Internet succeeded because the cost of data transport had finally fallen enough to make it possible to provide sufficiently fast connections to enough people.

cat skinning, 101. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#37076634)

Not to deprecate TBLs work, but there are many ways to implement pointers and tags. The web is a success because of those that got behind it ( even forcing a leviathon to stop destroying it ), certainly not for its elegance. Much worse would have been OK too.

Sir Tim ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37076994)

is not Jeff Boozos.

Big difference.

Sir Tim has intelligence.

Jeff Boozos has nothing ... not even clean panties.

Jeff B. need desperately a 45 caliber slug through the head.

A 45 caliber slug to the head does the same thing as a 10 lbs sledge hammer to a 5-by-5-by-5 inch block of cheese.

Har dee harr harr

--++//==

CORBA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37077064)

It's more likely we'd be using the CORBA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Object_Request_Broker_Architecture than gopher, there was also Fresco http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fresco_%28windowing_system%29, which was based on CORBA and provided a user interface API and was intended to replace X11. All this UI code (and probably CORBA) went down the tubes when the web appeared.

What if Ugh had patented fire? (1)

Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077072)

HTML, by the way, was not the first implementation of hypertext. The whole concept is some decades older, but the fact that there was not much practical use for it made it somewhat hard to patent it.

John Titor checking in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37077426)

Tim who?

We'd be fucked (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077448)

that is all

The obvious (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#37077496)

Something different would have come along. And since another round of thought would have been put into its design, there's a fair chance it would have been better.

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