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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.
    • by acidboy (242735) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:18PM (#7684904)
      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

      You're getting on an intellectual high horse sneering down at web monkeys from the vantage point of a VB programmer? Oh the irony.

      • by Carnildo (712617) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:23PM (#7684949) Homepage Journal
        With ten years' experience, he's probably reached the point where he can actually force VB to do what he needs it to.
        • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:38PM (#7685072) Homepage Journal
          Patent a Turd?

          This is a crappy idea. It got kicked to hell on the Full-Disclosure list about 2 Months ago...

          VU#865940 [cert.org] - Microsoft Internet Explorer does not properly evaluate "application/hta" MIME type referenced by DATA attribute of OBJECT element IE will execute an HTML Application (HTA) referenced by the DATA attribute of an OBJECT element if the Content-Type header returned by the web server is set to "application/hta". An attacker could exploit this vulnerability to execute arbitrary code with the privileges of the user running IE.

          (Other resources: eEye Digital Security Advisory AD20030820, MS03-032, MS02-040, CAN-2003-0532, CAN-2003-0838, CAN-2003-0809)

      • by Anonymous Coward
        You're getting on an intellectual high horse sneering down at web monkeys from the vantage point of a VB programmer? Oh the irony.

        He has a secure, most likely well paying job in the IT sector and you're looking down on him because your high school C++ teacher says "VB iz l4me?" Oh, the irony.
      • VB Rocks!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @09:31PM (#7685909)
        I hadn't programmed seriously for about 10 years...my C was very rusty. I picked up a VB book and went through it and wrote a few apps b/c work wanted apps in VB. What the hell, I said.

        The good thing about VB is, I really hated it with a passion after about 20 minutes and put it down as soon as I could. Then I really got pissed at Microsoft for making such a weak product and got rid of Windows too. I'm now quite happily using open source products. See, VB is good.
        • Re:VB Rocks!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mystran (545374)
          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 tim

    • by mugnyte (203225) * on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:25PM (#7684965) Journal
      You use languages? Sissy! In MY DAY, we'd plug wires into a wall of vaccuum tubes. Every few hours, we'd shutdown and replace the burnouts. and don't even ASK ME about the BUGS.

      Languages are just portals for virii!
    • by iamanatom (700380) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:27PM (#7684990)
      I was going to type a reply but M$ would probably patent 'ASCII data entry by means of an alpha-numeric input device' before I could hit Post. Darn.
    • by lintux (125434)
      > 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.
      • by Ayanami Rei (621112) * <rayanami AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:46PM (#7685138) Journal
        XUL is the eXtensible UI Layout language. It's an XML dialect that describes the layout of widgets on the screen (sort of like what Glade does, or WinForms). These widgets are hooked up with JavaScript to implement the "interactive" component of the interface, and the widgets and display elements themselves are a mix of compiled functionality from the NSPR (which may defer to real OS widgets), but the majority is actually XHTML.

        The whole thing gets packaged up in .jar files ala Java, and the URLs are accessed internally by the "chrome" protocol.

        It's quite cool. And the technology is old, so I don't see Microsoft's ability to defend its position as strong.

        (I believe this is MOSTLY accurate. Someone please correct me who is more familiar with Moz)
    • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:53PM (#7685192) Journal
      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 given that line noise will autoformat and compile under VB.
      • by larry bagina (561269) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:29PM (#7685474) Journal
        Especially given that line noise will autoformat and compile under VB.

        You must not be a perl guy.

    • by wud (709053)
      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

    • 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 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.

  • XHTML (Score:5, Funny)

    by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:12PM (#7684842) Homepage Journal
    That's ok HTML is obselete, we use XHTML now.

    Move along.
  • Prior Art (Score:2, Funny)

    by BenBenBen (249969)
    Every fscking porn popup ever, c.1995 onwards.
    • Re:Prior Art (Score:2, Interesting)

      by racas (633636)
      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.
    • What about kiosk mode (I think that's what it's called) where a browser runs as a full screen app. Lots of businesses already run them. I'm sure that Netscape has been able to do this for a while...
  • 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.
    • One wonders what exactly happens during patent reviews.
    • Re:Well.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by spectecjr (31235)
      You do realize that Mozilla's Chrome and the use of the term "chrome" by Microsoft to describe UI widgets are not actually related? And that the patent doesn't actually talk about anything even close to Mozilla's use of the term?

      Please. RTFP.
      • Re:Well.. (Score:3, Informative)

        by MntlChaos (602380)
        actually, they're the same thing. Both refer to the elements of the GUI except content. For instance, mozilla's chrome is the xul and js that specifies what the stuff in the window is and what it does.
      • Re:Well.. (Score:3, Informative)

        by rfmobile (531603)
        I read the patent. I've written XUL applications using Mozilla. The claims covered by the patent are functionally the same to XUL chrome. -rick
    • Well, if the chrome page existed before May 20, 1998 then it can be introduced as prior art (as long as that covers the actual claims in the patent). Patents in the US are granted from the date of filing, and it is assumed that the invention was invented up to a year prior to that. (This assumption comes from the fact that you cannot patent something that has been in use for more than a year.)

      The US uses a first-to-file method for solving disputes, not first-to-invent. This is how Elisha Gray lost the t [about.com]
      • Re:Well.. (Score:3, Informative)

        by IntlHarvester (11985)
        HTML Applications (HTAs) appeared with Internet Explorer 4.0, which was introduced in 1997, I believe. Long before the Mozilla project started.

        HTAs are basically web pages that have no security model and can bind with local COM objects. They are deployed by copying them to your hard drive rather than pulling them from the network. As the article mentions, Windows now uses these heavily for things like control panels.

        As a side-note, the HTA "feature" is of the main causes of IE security problems. Apparentl
        • Re:Well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jkabbe (631234) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @11:50PM (#7686782)
          Considering this:

          the patent was filed May 20, 1999

          it means this:

          HTML Applications (HTAs) appeared with Internet Explorer 4.0, which was introduced in 1997, I believe. Long before the Mozilla project started.


          must be referring to something other than the patent. If they distributed and sold their patented invention in the US two years before filing an application the patent would not be valid. So either the patent is on something else or the USPTO screwed up.

  • by Eudial (590661) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:15PM (#7684874)
    Method and apparatus for writing a Windows application in HTML.

    So, everyone using Mac and Linux are free to use chrome?
    • Uh... Correct me if I'm wrong, but the post says "in a window FREE OF...". Doesn't that mean that it's full-screen browsing they're talking about?

      Also, does "Windows application" refer to MS Windows specifically or just the concept of windowing generally? The capitalization in the post would seem to suggest the former.

      Assuming I'm reading it correctly, the News.com article isn't actually all that related. It would be nice to have a link that clarifies these questions.
    • Frankly, such windows annoy me. If MS forces everyone else to stop using such techniques, I'll be overall happy. My (unuser)friedly local bus company pops up lots of windows sans chrome, and they're just annoying. (not the popups themselves, but the lack of buttons)
    • So, everyone using Mac and Linux are free to use chrome?

      Sure, so long as you use a text based browser that can't call another x-window for a trusted jvscript popup advert without any deactivating buttons and less "security" than IE, you don't owe anything to SCO^H^H^HMicfosoft.

    • 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
    • by infolib (618234)
      Method and apparatus for writing a Windows application in HTML.

      So, everyone using Mac and Linux are free to use chrome?


      Read the claims. Not the headline, not the abstract, not the description, THE CLAIMS! The claims and nothing else decide what the patent covers, so it's really the only thing you should read. The rest of the patent is probably designed to be worthless to competitors (while still having the patent granted) whereas the claims are drawn up to be the broadest possible.

      I apologize for
  • New "Features" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hi_2k (567317) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:16PM (#7684876) Journal
    in a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome," and browser security restrictions .
    So now we have microsoft with patenting a new way of creating macicious popups with windows. Knowing Microsoft, stuff like Gator and Eyeblaster ad's will soon show up in this space and, without my usual restrictions, everyone who uses Internet Explorer will soon have spyware again. While it'll be quite profitable (for me too, I do computer repair and tune ups), This could easily become a HUGE annoyance for systems administrators around the world. Time to switch everything to Mozilla and Opera.
    • I agree. The navigation buttons should not be removed, along with security settings. Will you be able to right click on the window to get the "back or source"?
    • yeah, I can definately see Microsoft needing to get money by hocking gator ads. Being a zealot is fine, but try being a bit realistic now and then.

    • Re:New "Features" (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647)
      "So now we have microsoft with patenting a new way of creating macicious popups with windows. "

      Bzzzt... wrong answer.

      This patent covers Microsoft HTML Applications. An HTML Application is a file with the extention of .hta; you download it like any other executable and run it like any other executable. This does not cover browser windows, nor does it allow a website to open such an application.

      An HTML Application is just like a normal executable except for the fact that it is written in HTML.
    • Re:New "Features" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:28PM (#7685464) Journal
      'in a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome," and browser security restrictions .'

      So now we have microsoft with patenting a new way of creating macicious popups with windows.


      Remember that, when they applied for the patent, Sun was trying to break their monopoly on OSes by creating, with Java and Javascript, a platform-independent secure sandbox within the web browser for running web-distributed mini-apps. Letting users build Windows-only apps that could escape the sandbox and use OS-dependent features (but only on Windows platforms) would seem like a plus.

      Of course the patent would block others from doing the same on OTHER proprietary OSes. So web site designers could build portable content, Windows-only content, but not Other-OS-only content. This would help prevent another OS from displacing them as the monopolist and then using their own tricks on them to keep them out of the catbird seat.
  • hah. (Score:2, Funny)

    by sirReal.83. (671912)
    As long as the patent has "Windows" in it, I'm unfazed. That whole platform is a (slooowly) sinking ship. They're just repeatedly carving their name on the hull.
  • from the article:
    "In short, HTAs pack all the power of Microsoft Internet Explorer"

    That's right- because as we all know, Microsoft invented HTML and Internet Explorer is the only web browser in existence.

    more info here:
    http://www.ideasatthepowerhouse.com.au/05_i deas_online/ideas_online_whose.asp
  • by twitter (104583)
    Microsoft describes their "technology":

    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.

    Anyone want to offer a explaination of that means and why any of it deserves a patent? From hear it looks like a standard web browser with "channel-download" with even lower security than IE. What, besides the buzzword jargon,

  • by DeltaSigma (583342) <onu@public.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:21PM (#7684928) Journal
    Its biggest use?

    Really fancy about pages.
  • by pvt_medic (715692) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:23PM (#7684953)
    Can we now hold them accountable for any problems, viruses, spyware, annoyances that use this?
  • 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.
    • by JMZero (449047)
      HTA's are about being able to use HTML to create a desktop application, and treating the result as a desktop application (ie, different security arrangement and display). I can imagine how this would be useful for simple apps, especially to programmers accustomed to HTML/Script. HTA's are treated as executable code, and are not (barring an exploit) able to be popped up via web page. They are not connected to the web particularly other than that they share an underlying language, HTML. Regardless of brow
  • Good to see (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randall_burns (108052) <randall_burnsNO@SPAMhotmail.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.

    • Re:Your confusion (Score:5, Informative)

      by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:45PM (#7685122)
      Chrome has its roots in earlier work than that.

      Remember Netcaster [netscape.com]?. Netcaster might have been a heinous abomination but it was still an app written in HTML, JS etc. as the link makes pretty clear.

      Or perhaps MS thinks that the patent only covers Win32-only HTML apps. In other words cripple your HTML based app so it only runs on their platform and infringe on their patent. It makes sense to someone I'm sure.

    • 2 modified dates (Score:3, Informative)

      by Drathos (1092)
      If you look at the document history link down at the bottom of the page, you'll see what the change in 2000 was. They just added a couple of anchor tags (which I don't really understand the point of).

      The April 1999 change was the last change of the content
  • by Dorktrix (148287) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:27PM (#7684995) Homepage
    I haven't read the Microsoft patent, but it is not just "configurable chrome" like the Mozilla link in the post. Essentially, Microsoft applications like the "Add/Remove Programs" control panel applet are normal Windows applications that use HTML for their interface rather than normal Win32 widgets.

    The patent (I presume) is on this method, where a browser control is pointed at a DLL rather than a web server speaking HTTP. This is completely different than skinning, as it is a way of running a dynamic, HTML-based application locally without a web server.
    • "The patent (I presume) is on this method, where a browser control is pointed at a DLL rather than a web server speaking HTTP. This is completely different than skinning, as it is a way of running a dynamic, HTML-based application locally without a web server."

      Reminds me of how Windows Update knows what you have installed so it can package up the new things you need. I guess the idea that Microsoft developed a new service and patented a key component of it is too hard to believe next to an accusation tha
  • 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.

  • XAML (Score:4, Insightful)

    by silkySlim (565600) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:32PM (#7685028) Homepage
    I believe this is related to XAML [microsoft.com] which is designed to take the nightmare out of windows UI coding.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Microsoft on Tuesday won a patent for launching a certain kind of bastard application within Windows.

    The patent, "Method and apparatus for writing a Windows application in bastardry" (a frequently-employed Microsoft method), describes Microsoft's way of opening up malicious applications in a window free of uninstall software and other interface elements, known as "options," and operating system security restrictions.

    One example of a bastard application at work in Windows is the "MIDI" feature in Direct
  • by bshuttleworth (178787) <bradNO@SPAMdeimos.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 cyfer2000 (548592) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:41PM (#7685088) Journal
    I am not sure if those virus in OE could be classified as HTML. But if yes, will those virus writers be sued as "patent infringment"?
  • HTML vs. XUL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:41PM (#7685094) Homepage Journal
    XUL isn't HTML, and therefore wouldn't be covered by this patent.

    Sure, given that XUL already existed when this was filed, you could make the claim that using HTML instead was "obvious", but it isn't, strictly speaking, the same.

    Perhaps the Mozilla people should patent XUL. For defensive purposes, if nothing else. But the conspiracy theorists should look elsewhere for Microsoft threats to open-source browsers.

  • Sigh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DroidBiker (715045) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:42PM (#7685100)
    I want to patent "a method for limiting the decay of society by kicking the crap out of idiots at the patent office"
  • by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec@nOspam.umich.edu> 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.
  • Can you patent an idea and then release it into the public domain or put it under a Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] license (or something like it)? It seems like this might head off some of the prior art arguements, and even if some other entity breaks the patent because of other prior art, it still is better than it moving into a single group's hands. I know it is more work, but I am tied of getting screwed-over because someone comes up with something "innovative*".

    Just wondering....

    * Innovative (MS, SCO, et. al
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terrNO@SPAMterralogic.net> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:49PM (#7685160)
    The USPTO is granting invalid patents left right and center on obvious techniques and on techniques that in some cases are actually part of standards. Clearly they are not in a position to be able to determine prior art much less the requirment that in order for something to be patentable it must be non-obvious to practitioners of the art.

    A couple years ago the Australian PTO granted a patent for a wheel. (I believe I saw this in the ignoble awards) The applicant had actually drawn a cart illustrating the role of the wheel. Clearly the USPTO is not alone in its level of incompetance.

    Under law as I understand it, these beauracrates have a responsibility to follow the legislation. Clearly due to their collective incompetance and possibly several other factors they are not doing this.

    So is there any way to challenge them and if not can a lobby be put together so that before a patent is granted there is a peer review of its validity? Why should software developers for instance face invalid patent after invalid patent which creates unnecessary litigation at terrible costs when a simple peer review process done in conjunction with the patent office could avert the problem. Please note that the court system is already overloaded and that it is a serious drain on the taxpayers of the nation. As such it would seem that a peer review process might be in the best interests of everyone.

    Perhaps the patent office would even go along with such a process because it might save them considerable embarrasment as well as offloading some of the workload of their examiners. Is there anything in the law that prohibits something like this?

    Please note that at least IMHO I see invalid patents as the greatest threat there is for the opensource community. We need to address this as soon as possible in an effective manner.
  • brain?...no...From the article:"...Microsoft has no current plans to enforce the patent."
    Uh huh...GIF...jpeg...FAT... I know...they're not all MS patents, but...

    We are at that awkward stage in our history where it's too late to vote them out, but it's too early to just shoot the bastards. - ?
  • No similarities here (Score:5, Informative)

    by NickFitz (5849) <slashdot AT nickfitz DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:56PM (#7685212) Homepage
    Why does this sound vaguely familiar?

    I don't know. If you knew anything about Windows HTAs, you'd know that they have no discernible similarity to the Mozilla technologies you reference. That technology allows (for example) skinning. The point about HTAs is that they get rid of the browser chrome, at the same time as being nothing to do with the use of web browser-originated technology for browsing.

    The point about HTAs is that they consist of (X)HTML, JavaScript and COM (ActiveX) objects. When installed on your system, they run as applications in the Windows environment, meaning no sandboxing: file system access, etc.

    As somebody is going to sneer "Why would I let a web site do that", let me point out that this isn't anything to do with websites. If you download and install an HTA, you have to follow the same procedures as for any other software you download. Anybody distributing an HTA would probably have to package it using an installer of some kind. You can't just have one appear when you go to a site; any HTA that does anything useful needs a bunch of COM components installed in addition.

    And for those who ask "What's the point of it": one good use is for creating test harnesses for COM components. You can code up a UI with a quick bit of HTML, stick some JavaScript in there and run your test cases against the component. It's even easier than using VB to create such utility apps. It's also useful for rapid prototyping of ideas; it only takes a few minutes to explore a concept (if you're any good at JavaScript programming). But I can't imagine many people actually shipping HTAs.

    Why grant them a patent? I assume it's because they were the first to think of taking the technology out of the web browser, rearranging it in this novel way, and thereby providing a facility that wasn't there before.

    I wouldn't worry about it affecting your lives in any great way; it's specifically a Microsoft technology.

    But I still wonder why somebody would take the words 'a window free of navigation and other interface elements, known as "chrome,"' and think it was similar to a technology for adding chrome.

  • Sounds Similar (Score:3, Informative)

    by Skasta (594110) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:58PM (#7685228)
    kinda sounds like this [ibm.com]
  • 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).

  • by KevMar (471257) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:34PM (#7685520) Homepage Journal
    Rename your .htm to .hta and run it localy on a windows system. Do a task list and you will see a mshta.exe is the task.

    Now kill it, and your page dies too

    in win2k and newer try this"
    open control Panel and run Add/Remove Programs
    You are looking at hta in action.

    kill mshta.exe again, Add/Remove Programs dies as well.

    I find HTA handy when I dont want to load visual studio for a quick app that I would rather run as a web page, but I can't because I need more system level access. A quick VBScript or JScript with a html frontend in notepad works wonders.

    FYI: Little help is actualy written for HTA, but realize it is a mix of Script and HTML working together named *.hta
  • wait a min (Score:3, Funny)

    by shaitand (626655) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:48PM (#7685626) Journal
    The way that reads, it sounds like a webpage that writes and executes a windows app on a users pc. Microsoft has patented browser exploits? It's hard to dispute this one, they certainly have all the prior art on their side...
  • by sillybilly (668960) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @09:24PM (#7685866)
    I think the original poster of this story is making a misleading statement - he must have misunderstood the patent. He states that the patent is about launching browser windows without "chrome" around it.
    His link defines chrome like this:

    What is Chrome? - 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.

    Now read the abstract of the patent below, and tell me, the way you understand it, does it have anything to do with chrome?

    United States Patent 6,662,341
    Cooper , et al. December 9, 2003
    Method and apparatus for writing a windows application in HTML

    Abstract

    A method, apparatus, and computer-readable medium for authoring and executing HTML application files is disclosed. An HTML application file is basically a standard HTML file that runs in its own window outside of the browser, and is thus not bound by the security restrictions of the browser. The author of an HTML application file can take advantage of the relaxed security. The author of the HTML application file designates the file as an HTML application file by doing one or more of the following: defining the MIME type as an HTML application MIME type; or using an HTML application file extension for the file. When a browser, such as the Internet Explorer, encounters one of the above, it processes the file as an HTML application file rather than a standard HTML file by creating a main window independent of the browser, and rendering the HTML in the main window.


    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

    Most existing Windows application development environments require knowledge of specialized computer languages such as C++, or Visual Basic. Learning a specialized computer language is often difficult for non-technical individuals. However, many non-technical individuals can use HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and scripting languages, such as VBScript and JScript. HTML and scripting languages are run inside of a Web browser, and thus, inherit the browser's user interface and security mechanisms. Because non-technical individuals have knowledge of HTML and scripting languages, it would be advantageous to leverage such existing knowledge to implement a Window's application. Such applications should be free to define their own user interface elements and to run as trusted code on the system, i.e., outside of the security model imposed by the Web browser. The present invention is directed to achieving this result.

    END EXCERPT


    In fact, why don't you go to www.uspto.gov, and search for patent # 6,662,341, and educate yourself a bit about patents. Read the abstract, then the "field of invention" and introduction parts - they are the most important for start, even though the claims are the only things that matter in court. Because of that claims are written in very hard to read lawyer lingo, and only read them after you read the rest, to double check that the claims are actually saying what you understood from the rest of the text.

    Basically this patent is about programming, as opposed to C or VB, you end up programming in the C-like javascript. I don't feel this deserves a patent at all - the amount of effort needed to relax securities for a special .hta extension file is quite minuscule. Plus this is a stupid software patent anyway - in my mind it ranks pretty close to the Amazon 1-click shopping patent. Anything that people say "duh" to shouldn't be called an invention. If it's shocking, new, who would have thought kind of thing, then yeah, maybe. Typical embrace and extend behaviour.
  • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @10:02PM (#7686109)
    Hypertext has been used commercially for building local applications at least since Hypercard in the 1980's [w3.org]. The Web really evolved out of such local applications by adding network retrieval and addressability of hypertext.

    That is, the use of hypertext and scripts for building local applications preceded the web and was the historical foundation for it. It's ironic (and stupid) that Microsoft is going back in 1999 to try to patent the precursor to the web from the 1980's. Anybody who works as a developer or inventor in hypertext systems should have at least a passing familiarity with the history of the field. I think it demonstrates that the people at Microsoft who wrote this patent don't even know the basics of their profession.

    Note, incidentally, that you have been able to use HTML and JavaScript for building "trusted" applications on your local machine for many years, depending on your browser, so this is nothing new even as far as HTML specifically is concerned. Hypertext with embedded widgets and scripting has also been widely used for building local applications with the Tcl/Tk toolkit.
  • by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @04:14AM (#7687919)
    Chrome-free windows, with the addition of a fake IE toolbar/address bar as a GIF, can be used to spoof online banking login pages *really* convincingly. I'm surprised MS wanted to patent something that's so open to abuse for "phishing" fraud.
  • ahhhggg ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @08:45AM (#7688736)

    It's very instructive to read a /. story about something I actually know. Is the pack always this boneheaded? I know, I know "you must be new here" ;)

    1. XUL is not prior art, or even the same thing, other than they both have something to do with browsers. XUL let you customize Mozilla's chrome (basically), which is really cool for specialized WEB applications, like an Amazon browser. HTAs let you dispense with IE's chrome entirely, and access the LOCAL system like any local app.
    2. This has nothing to do with exploits, popups, etc. HTAs are intended to be local apps - they have no more access than any other local app you install (which is basically, full access, practically speaking in most cases). If you come across one hosted at a website and keep clicking Yes, well, you don't need an HTA for that ...
    3. XUL and HTA are for different problem spaces. Yeah, Mozilla probably has some kind of signed scripting mode that could access local resources, you probably could dispense with most or all chrome and build the interface in the content viewport, etc. Or you could just rename an .html file to .hta, add one special tag with some attributes (if I recall correctly, and even that might be optional) and you're there.
  • by djkitsch (576853) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @09:28AM (#7688922)
    Firstly, I should point out that I'm a big fan of open-source, use Mozilla every day and believe that the OS community produces some great projects that any other organisation would struggle with. Having said that, I think there's always value in playing devil's advocate for the purposes of discussion.

    When it comes down to it, you could view this not, as /. readers tend to, as a vicious attack on the community and ideals, but simply as the kind of business practise that goes on every day in other industries.

    Microsoft may well be taking a well-thought-out risk here. This could, if someone takes the matter up in court, go two ways:

    1) Microsoft pay a relatively small amount in legal costs and lose the patent.

    2) Microsoft get to keep their patent and go on to make large licensing deals.

    We often make the mistake of thinking of these as acts of evil - they're not. At a very basic level, Microsoft are not in the software business any more that banks are in the financial assistance business. They're both, as is every other for-profit company in the world, in the money making business.

    It's a lovely idea that people would turn down huge amounts of money to stand by their (arguably rather niche) moral views. But I'm willing to bet that if /. readers were offered a huge amount of money to abandon the OS movement, many would happily take the money. Maybe not all, maybe not half, but enough to keep companies like Microsoft on an even keel.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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