W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org > October 2001

Keep the web open and alive

From: Dr. Michael Evans <M.Evans@computer.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 19:35:16 +0100
To: <www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000001c151ba$50d22200$d63b893e@freeserve.co.uk>
To the members of the W3C,

I wish to express my deep misgivings about the future direction of the web
in general, and the W3C in particular, with regards to the current debate
about patents and web technologies.  The web is an extremely rare, and all
the more precious, entity in that it is a truly free channel for the
expression of ideas and publication of information.  If patents are granted
to web technologies then this free and uncensored information channel will
be stifled forever.

What company will create non-RAND technology when the technology they create
can be patented *and* be included in a potentially ubiquitous standard? Even
if they have only beneficial intentions when creating it, the company's
ethos can change very quickly. Difficult trading conditions, new management,
or just competition can soon lead a company to exploit its patents,
effectively holding the web hostage. A patent-riddled web will blow up in
the face of its users, who eventually will be forced to step through a legal
minefield, visiting  sites that instead of saying "best viewed with
Netscape", as they used to at the height of the browser wars, say "can
*only* be viewed using X-company's patented technology - no licence, no
information".

This brings the nightmare prospect of a suitably powerful company
controlling both access to, and information on, the web, effectively making
them the web's de facto censor.

An environment without a censor, whose technical standards are free to use
and free to develop, has led to the greatest collection of information the
world has ever known.  The environment becomes ubiquitous, new communities
form, information that never had a voice is suddenly heard.

An environment governed and controlled by a company, however, restricts the
expression of the individual, retards the growth of technical innovation,
and leads to huge power and profitability for the company  at the expense of
the system's users.

How can the W3C, who fought so hard to maintain HTML standards when
Microsoft and Netscape tried their hardest to subvert them in the browser
wars, not realise that RAND will lead to the web's balkanisation on a scale
that will dwarf that caused by incompatible HTML?

The openness of the web in terms of its information, access, and technology,
is the fundamental philosophical difference between it and all other
information providers, and it is what has made the web the truly great
ubiquitous information system we have today.  I urge the W3C and the whole
web community to fight RAND and to keep the web open and alive.

Dr Michael Evans,
Research Associate,
Network Research Group,
University of Plymouth,
UK
Received on Wednesday, 10 October 2001 14:30:56 GMT

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