Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 11/02/2002Now and again, the faintest hint of pity for BT bubbles to the surface like a toddler's bathtime fart. Sometimes, especially with the new management, it comes with the subtlest whiff that the company may yet reform and show it knows what's going on in the world.

Monday 11/02/2002

Now and again, the faintest hint of pity for BT bubbles to the surface like a toddler's bathtime fart. Sometimes, especially with the new management, it comes with the subtlest whiff that the company may yet reform and show it knows what's going on in the world.

When this happens, all one has to do to restore sanity is read today's news -- that BT is about to launch itself into court to prove itself the patent holder for hyperlinks. It announced that it was taking US ISP Prodigy to court a while back: BT said that a patent it holds that covers sending routing information along with text, thus hyperlinks, and that it was looking for licensing payments from everyone who served hyperlink information in the US.

As I've said before, this is a ludicrous claim. It only covers terminals connected via phone lines: is a PC running a browser a 'terminal'? There are any number of people ready to testify that they were doing much the same sort of thing well before BT got its patent granted, and in any case the idea that BT's Prestel system -- wherein BT's ideas were used -- had any effect on the development of the Internet is profoundly daft.

But mostly, it makes BT look stupid, greedy, uncaring and completely out of tune with what makes the Internet work. What would have happened if Tim Berners-Lee had tried to restrict access to HTTP and HTML? No Web, that's what. BT may well have reason to look like a blustering bully to the global community through some sort of maximising shareholder value machismo, or may reckon that if it wins it couldn't care less. But is this the sort of company you'd want to deal with?

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