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Microsoft Wins HTML App Patent 404

Posted by timothy
from the portfolio-whiplash dept.
crataegus writes "'Microsoft on Tuesday won a patent for launching a certain kind of HTML application within Windows. The patent, "Method and apparatus for writing a Windows application in HTML" (Hypertext Markup Language), describes Microsoft's way of opening up HTML applications in a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome," and browser security restrictions.' Why does this sound vaguely familiar?"
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Microsoft Wins HTML App Patent

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  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:11PM (#7684835) Homepage Journal
    "HTML Applications (HTAs) are full-fledged applications," the page reads. "These applications are trusted and display only the menus, icons, toolbars, and title information that the Web developer creates. In short, HTAs pack all the power of Microsoft Internet Explorer--its object model, performance, rendering power, protocol support, and channel-download technology--without enforcing the strict security model and user interface of the browser."

    So it's yet another way for Microsoft to let people call themselves "programmers", without actually having to write code. Big deal.

    I've spent 10+ years writing VB code, and I'm sure everyone will agree that there's a difference -- even in "high level" languages -- between throwing together something that will compile vs. designing a tool that does what your client needs done. Especially when "what your client needs" != "what your client requests".

    As for the security issues... when they say "these applications are trusted", the question is "by whom?" I see another way for skr1pt k1dd1es to invade systems, since all you need to do is convince one non-tech-savvy corporate VP to "trust" that message that says "I Love You, click here!". It's not like J0(ann)3 HaXX0r will be deterred by EULAs and patents.

    It's VBScript all over again. What good is a programming tool when security best practices suggest you turn it off?

    In fact, Microsoft's patent is great news. Hopefully, nobody will be tempted to license the "technology" (read: virus portal) for any other OS.
  • Well.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotAnotherReboot (262125) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:13PM (#7684855)
    Before anyone says anything about when they actually filed it being important, the patent [uspto.gov] was filed May 20, 1999 while that Mozilla page [mozilla.org] on Chrome says it was last modified April 7, 1999.
  • Re:need to copy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fputs(shit, slashdot (645337) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:22PM (#7684940) Homepage Journal
    Obviously Microsoft does not have the intellectual capacity to come up with their own ideas, ergo, they have to revert to 'stealing' open-source ones.
    XAML is MS embrace and extended XUL, they'll be add full png support to their browser next! petition MS financially support Mozilla Foundation, it's main source of innovative idea!
  • by freeweed (309734) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:24PM (#7684955)
    HTML applications in a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome," and browser security restrictions.' Why does this sound vaguely familiar?"

    Yeah, it sounds very familiar. Thanks to Opera I no longer see this sort of bullshit, but it sounds like those wonderful popups that you can't do anything with. You can't go back, you can't close them, you can't resize them, nothing. Add that to the automatic execution of ActiveX (free of browser security restrictions, remember) and you make me one more step closer to a dartboard with Bill's face on it.

    I couldn't give a shit if someone patents this, although it would be nice if they did it just to prevent anyone from actually using it in the field. I do however think anyone who thinks taking CONTROL of a computer away from USERS should be tied up and shot. This would be like creating a road that, when you drove on it, disabled the brakes in your car. No friggin thanks.
  • Good to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randall_burns (108052) <{randall_burns} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:25PM (#7684962)
    what Microsoft is gettin for their money [opensecrets.org]
  • Your confusion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:26PM (#7684977)
    Why does this sound vaguely familiar?"

    The Mozilla page that you cited does not prove precedence in this case. The patent was filed for in May of 1999 and whom ever developed this (Microsoft or Mozilla) obviously did it before then. The Mozilla page has a Last modified date of April 1999 (as well as a last modified date of March 2000, WTF?). The close proximity of these dates would require greater proof of who exactly was first with this.

    In the CNet article it says that Microsoft has no intention of enforcing the patent. I find that interesting since I seem to recall them saying the same thing about FAT up until their recent "licensing" scheme for FAT.

  • Prior art thread.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChangeOnInstall (589099) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:29PM (#7685008)
    Reply to this post if you wrote a web application that used this technique on or before May 20, 1998 (one year before the patent application date).

    (I did, and I'm pretty sure I still have a few of 'em laying around here somewhere).

    And this brings up one more question: Why the F*** did Netscape and MSIE include this capability but for providing developers the ability to do exactly what is described in this patent?

  • by i_r_sensitive (697893) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:30PM (#7685017)
    Given the language of the patent seems to delimit it out of significance, but I would suggest if that is what it looks like... ...HEADS UP! EYES OPEN! JUST WTF DOES THIS SERVE?

    I would suggest this is just an opening gambit of some sort. Where the end play is directed... well take your pick. But, given the Eolas issue, given the recent brou-ha-ha with Sun, given M$ history and preference for co-opting standards, I don't think dismissing this as irelevant as being the most prudent move.

    Ultimately, if M$ looks like it is going to lay some cards on the table, look under the table for what is really going on.

  • What's next? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ricin (236107) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:31PM (#7685021)
    MSN Explorer-XUL with ..gasp.. Bayesian spam filters (use mssb-setup.ini)?

    Are they afraid that they'll wind up not embracing standards or at least its vocabulary... Can you hear them argue in 2006 "well we had these same webapplications through out chrome.NET interface which was largely compliant with Java script".. or something along those lines.

    I sense that they are getting a teeny lil bit scared that they might get too detached from OSS tech and so they try to at least grab buzzwords from over the fence, always leaving a full jump-into-the-pool or hostile takeover of a certain tech field (or attempt) possible, even logical.

    I've never seen MS talk about "chrome" before, and Firebird == Mozilla + more XUL and it's geared mostly towards Windows it seems (which might explain why as nice as it may be, it runs quite badly on my freeBSD box). Moz/FB is getting increasingly popular with Windows users if what I hear and read is true.

    Just some thoughts.

  • by lintux (125434) <slashdot@w[ ]er.gaast.net ['ilm' in gap]> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:31PM (#7685024) Homepage
    > In fact, Microsoft's patent is great news. Hopefully, nobody will be tempted to license the "technology" (read: virus portal) for any other OS.

    Uhm, maybe you're using IE/Opera/Konqueror... But if you run Mozilla, you're already running an "OS" with this technology. The whole user interface of Mozilla is "pure" XUL (some sort of HTML) and JavaScript. It's called, yeah, Chrome.

    But you should've known that, because it's in the article.
  • Re:Prior Art (Score:2, Interesting)

    by racas (633636) <rei_saru@washout.net> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:33PM (#7685033) Homepage
    Perhaps it'll work in reverse order? Don't you think maybe Microsoft did it before the porn popups did? Perhaps it's another one ploy to get a legal ground against popups, like AT&T did with spam.
  • Re:XAML (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:38PM (#7685070)
    XAML is embraced & extended XUL! XUL is cross platform, so it's a no-brainer really unless you're sold on .NET
  • by bshuttleworth (178787) <brad.deimos@co@za> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:39PM (#7685077) Homepage
    OK - Maybe I'm just a cynical b----rd, but at least half the patent refers to storing the HTML and then reading it back. I didn't realise they were hiring MUPPETS at the USPTO.

    The patent [uspto.gov] basically covers: (from the claims)

    1. Read the file, check it is HTML. If so, then turn in into a bunch of rendering instructions. Otherwise, don't. (seriously - that's 1(a)-(iv))
    2. Claim 2 is claim 1 - nothing to see here.
    3. A computer-readable medium having computer-executable instructions for performing the method recited in claim 2.
    4. See above, only for claim 1.
    5. Identical to claim 1, more or less. Only this time its an "apparatus", not a "method". Whoopdy-freaking-do.
    6. Claims 7-9: Continue based on what this computer or another computer says. Sometimes write data to a storage medium.


    The BULK of the patent is the idea that HTML can contain Javascript that does stuff. Doesn't everyone and their kitten have prior art on this?



    As if it isn't obvious enough, Claims 1-6 are covered by HTML 2.0. Claims 7-9 are covered (and this is a trivial example, others will surely find better ones) by HTML 4.0 [w3.org] and cousins. And the only reason I don't have earlier references is that they're so bleeding obvious!

    Sigh. Muppets from space.

  • by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec@uWELTYmich.edu minus author> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:44PM (#7685118) Homepage Journal
    From http://www.mozilla.org/xpfe/ConfigChromeSpec.html
    "The chrome is that part of the application window that lies outside of a window's content area. Toolbars, menu bars, progress bars, and window title bars are all examples of elements that are typically part of the chrome."

    From http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/author/dhtml/re ference/methods/showmodaldialog.asp
    "Specifies whether the dialog window displays the border window chrome. This feature is only available when a dialog box is opened from a trusted application. The default is no."

    The cnet story seems to be passing off the word "chrome" as some sort of new technology name, when it seems that both Mozilla and Microsoft developers refer to it as a generic term for describing application window adornments.

    What's the significance of this? Well, this "chrome" itself isn't a part of Microsoft's patent. It's existed in almost every window in almost every application made by any developer. Microsoft's HTML application technology removes the window chrome, but the "meat" of the patent is the ability to use HTML and Internet Explorer to create an application.

    The only thing this has in common with Mozilla is that it also deals with window chrome.

    Microsoft isn't copying Mozilla by using the same software term.
  • by wud (709053) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:54PM (#7685204) Homepage Journal
    I see another way for skr1pt k1dd1es to invade systems,


    I was wondering what .hta files were earlier today when i was checking this site out... *warning, dont view it in IE, escpecially if you use AIM*

    www.realphx.com

  • by NickFitz (5849) <<ku.oc.ztifkcin> <ta> <todhsals>> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:00PM (#7685243) Homepage

    RTFA, or even better, RTFP. The only way you'll get an HTA to do anything is with JavaScript (or VBScript, if you're sad enough). It has unrestricted access to the machine, just like any other application, but the UI is done in HTML, with JavaScript and (probably) COM components. It's got nothing to do with web browsers.

    In fact, the reason the patent was awarded was because it's a novel application of technologies which the short-sighted think are only to do with web browsers.

  • by scdeimos (632778) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:08PM (#7685297)

    From the article:

    "One example of an HTML application at work in Windows is the "Add or Remove Programs" feature in the control panel."

    Yes, which requires IE, which is one of my bugbears with this approach.

    If you do somehow remove IE's claws from your system, it means you'll no longer be able to use the UI to uninstall Apps, games and powertoys from your system. Of course, anyone fluent in the Registry could trawl the Uninstall keys to remove stuff manually (or write a replacement app to do it).

  • It does bother me! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tony-A (29931) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:10PM (#7685311)
    It sounds too much like Microsoft now has a patent on viruses.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:13PM (#7685332)
    ren index.html index.hta

    So in other words, if an HTML file is named with an extension of .hta, then it has all the benefits of not having the IE security model to deal with. And the window won't *look* like IE, but in fact is.
  • by jaygreybc (731734) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:16PM (#7685357)
    I believe I have prior art. I have been working on the software described in the CNET article for about 2 and a half years. It's got an HTML equivalent of the start menu, task bar, system tray, title bar, close program button, add/remove programs, etc. If you'd like to see it please e-mail me at jsante@XXXiusb.edu minus the Xs. As of now it works over the internet, but when bundled properly (and I was planning on doing this), it can be used to do exactly what MS described. Incidentally, if anyone would like to help me out developing it, I am just now aquiring help. - Justin.
  • by Nedmud (157169) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @09:25PM (#7685873)
    Those are some interesting ways to classify; thanks. I will save that post for future thought.

    Re: line-based, etc.
    I think of "line-based" languages as somehow easy to interpret (and maybe compile too). And also that you can execute one part of it even if the rest is not syntactically valid.

    That's probably true of all other languages too, but it seems easier for line-based ones.
  • Re:Well.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jfx32 (464043) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @10:12PM (#7686172) Homepage
    Actually neither Bell or Grey is the inventor of the telephone.
    Meucci - invention of the telephone [popular-science.net]
  • by telecaster (468063) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @10:37PM (#7686325)
    Seems to me, I might have "prior art" on this. The company that I wrote it for filed a patent in 2000 -- which was not accepted or pursued (they went out of business). The patent was filed and I should really try and dig up the documentation.

    Basically, I used JavaScript/HTML and a little XML, I packaged it up in a resource DLL and delivered it via an IE application (a simple COM/ATL container). This allowed a web designer to "create" an interface in HTML using Dreamweaver, glue it together using JavaScipt and have it be completely contained within a payload of a resource DLL.

  • by nobullplease (2027) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @05:33AM (#7688149)
    This shouldn't bother anyone. Whilst I was at Caldera (yes, them!) in 1997 Myself and a colleague sourced a browser to run on DOS, and we got the specification changed to allow it to allow HTML to define the application and user interface. This is before chrome-less, and was controlled in a manner similar to MS. Therefore there is substantial prior-art.

    This invention is probably mine and Rogers as no-one else was doing it...

    I wonder if we/Caldera should have patented it...

    Note that this technology was shown publically at CeBIT in Europe and CDs were generated using it too as demos for DRDOS or OpenDOS so I'm sure Microsoft saw these and the website/publicity that covered these items - i.e. Public Domained invention. I'm sure Ransome Love will concur.

    Jon Williams
  • Re:VB Rocks!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mystran (545374) <mystran@gmail.com> on Thursday December 11, 2003 @05:44AM (#7688186) Homepage
    VB has it's uses. Basicly, the best part of VB is glueing together components written in some other language (most often C++). It's just one of the easiest way to glue.

    I'd say that only being able to program in VB is useful, but to actually get something complex done, you either need someone that can do controls for you or you have to know how to use the Visual C++ wizards to create you the control you can then add some C++ into.

    This is actually must more nice model of working than it sounds. At all times you are either in component programming mode, or application programming mode, composing applications from those controls in VB.

    You can't do a datastructure in VB? Write a control. You need some UI control VB doesn't supply? Write a control. VB too slow for some calculation? Write a control. Want automatic layouts into VB (and don't want to do them in Basic)? Just write another control.

    The thing is, alone VB is just a toy, but the component model makes it nice. It's the same thing with the HTML thing. You can still have your real code in COM controls, but instead of VB you can now also use HTML to create the user interface. Big deal, this is just what component architectures are ment for.

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