Microsoft has applied for a patent on automatic translation of IM messages. The patent itself is reliably impenetrable, but it seems on first glance to be a method of taking a line in one language -- "Hello, Jacques, how are you?" and translating it to another: "Bonjour, vous singe de reddition qui mange les fromages." As usual, plenty of prior art springs to mind and as usual, it doesn't matter 'cos it's the chap with the biggest lawyer who wins. It's always struck me that this would be an ideal area for European developers. The single biggest problem in the great European Union experiment is the apparent rule that every country must have a different language. Even that's not good enough for some countries, who insist on two or more: heaven only knows how the Swiss have kept out so long. But it struck me ages ago -- and many others -- that the best way for Europe to work is for people to be able to find out what's going on in their next door countries. Talk to each other. Form alliances across borders that aren't commercial or Community-driven, but just out of common interest. You can't do that if you don't know what the other chap's saying. A project for a European-wide chat and bulletin board system with really strong online translation would fulfil many needs: it would act as the perfect gateway into the European governmental systems, it would let the people of Europe discover each other and our common heritage and goals, and most important of all it should qualify for an absolutely stonking lump of Euro-wonga for the developers But get in quick, before Microsoft snaffles the lot.