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Killer Patents

Monday, January 24, 2000 by Dave Winer.

Good morning! Permalink to Good morning!

Good morning DaveNet readers.

I have three new suits, shirts, ties, socks, shoes, overcoat, sweaters, gloves, leather jacket, laptop, digital camera, working on WAP, getting ready for the big trip. It's been eight years since I've been to Europe. I'm excited. I leave Tuesday, flying to London, then Zurich, and then take a bus to Davos and then.. I have no idea where I'm going!

And my little boy, my subconscious self, seems to be OK with it. I've been on the edge of a cold for the last week. I see the cold as a lurking cry of protest from my body. "I like it here!" my body seems to be saying. "Why leave now?"

So I listen, and ask questions, and learn where the fear comes from. It's an old old fear of being cold. I ask the question a parent would ask of child he loves. "Do you think we should bring some extra warm clothes?" The little boy who has no sense of time responds "Yes! That would be great!!"

Listen listen listen. That's what love is all about.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Permalink to Who wants to be a millionaire?

For some reason I love the new TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" starring Regis Philbin and people just like You and Me. I love the show the same way I love the Taco Bell dog. Regis is a corny old dude. But he's likeable, a guy from the Bronx, and he shares bits of wisdom that are worth remembering.

After a streak of losing contestants, including a guy who struck out on the first question, with three unused lifelines, Regis, clearly flustered (maybe it was faked?) says "It's not as easy as it looks."

Spicy noodles Permalink to Spicy noodles

One of my favorite new dishes is Dahn Dahn Noodles from Jing Jing in Palo Alto. A spicy peanut sauce over Chinese spaghetti. It's delicious! Chinese food at its best.

More spicy noodles Permalink to More spicy noodles

Two of my favorite new websites (there are many!) are written by Dan Gillmor and Dan Bricklin. Gillmor is the columnist at the San Jose Mercury-News, and Bricklin is the inventor of Visicalc and the CTO at Trellix. Both Dans are web newbies, two smart people trying something new.

One is a writer and the other is a software developer. It must be tantalizing because the web is part writing and part software. Between the two they have everything they need to make it work. It'll take just a little time to figure out how the web changes each of the arts that the Two Dans practice.

Even better, Dan and Dan are newbies with a digital camera, and their sites are much better for it. You can see what they see. Visualization is pretty important, at least to me. They were my inspiration for getting a new Nikon CoolPix camera. I'm a total digital camera newbie. And I'm going through the kind of across-the-board growth you get when you do something new. Thanks!

Is it really about money? Permalink to Is it really about money?

I can make a lot of money on the Internet. For sure. We'll do an IPO, I bet before the year is out. If it works, I'll have many more millions of dollars to add to my bank account which already has a few million. Will it make me richer? Of course not.

Having lots of cash will help us hire new people to build out our vision of the Internet as a writer's medium,. We'll have a fancy developer's conference, we'll run prettier press releases and maybe even run ads during the SuperBowl, but none of this will directly make me richer.

The only way I get richer thru the Internet is when people who can teach me things start websites. There's so much human knowledge and experience that could be accessible thru the web. Every time a new teacher gets on the net, even if I don't see the site, I am richer.

This is the kind of exponential growth I yearn for.

Amazon Permalink to Amazon

Amazon is a pioneer of the Internet. I first became aware of Amazon through an ad in the New York Times Book Review. Smart marketing. Reach into the literate mind and put a new word in there. Amazon. Earth's largest bookstore. Memorable, fun and daring. You gotta root for such a broad vision.

Amazon broke important new ground in e-commerce applications. Their 1-Click ordering system was truly daring and right on. So much power in a single button! They should be proud of that accomplishment. It was an unobvious invention. Mazel tov!

Geoworks Permalink to Geoworks

Geoworks is the ashen corpse of a company that struggled without an advantage, and somehow managed to stay alive long enough to put a roadblock in the way of one of the most interesting standards to come along since HTML and HTTP.

Geoworks has a patent that they believe is the basis for WAP and WML, the two protocols of the emerging wireless web. Watching their press release percolate thru the WAP world revealed that Phone.Com also has patents in this area.

Killer patents Permalink to Killer patents

The Internet is about to get much more complex. Geoworks is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of patents that have been issued in areas that are basic to building out the Internet.

Amazingly, Amazon has filed a patent on their 1-Click technique, and has sued to prevent others from using it. I wonder why Amazon did this. Such brilliant marketing in their early days -- this could become a huge PR fiasco.

Dave Fink Permalink to Dave Fink

A couple of years ago I became friends with Dave Fink, former VP of R&D at Disney, a man who has filed many patents. Fink believes that patents are useless as an offensive weapon, when consumers find out what they lose, they'll penalize any vendor that uses them. I agree, but Fink's theory breaks down with Geoworks, a dead company that has nothing to lose. But Amazon? That's another story.

What is the Internet? Permalink to What is the Internet?

What is the Internet? It's a bunch of routers. At every level, economic, political, literary and technological.

The Internet is a public space. Anyone who tries to own the Internet, as Amazon and Geoworks have, will be routed around. If Microsoft had truly embraced that idea I don't think the US DOJ would have sued them.

Try as hard as you want to own the Internet, we'll figure out a way to work around you.

With Amazon, we'll take our case to the court of public opinion. With Geoworks, I don't have a workaround. Maybe we could find something useful for them to do so they will have something to lose? See how patents pervert things!

My new slogan Permalink to My new slogan

Last week my friend Doc Searls, who could lead an terrific website connecting writers with technologists, said he was searching for a slogan that's as good as SlashDot's -- News for Nerds, Stuff That Matters.

Now, that's a pretty good slogan, but I've got a better one.

Ask not Permalink to Ask not

"Ask not what the Internet can do for you. Ask what you can do for the Internet."

It's our guideline for growth. Something I think we can all agree on. And those who can't agree, such as Amazon and Geoworks, should be clearly seen as being on the other side.

Onward! Permalink to Onward!

When I speak at Davos and Seybold in the next couple of weeks, I'll evangelize the new slogan.

When you hear about a new Internet strategy, think of it in these terms. Are they squeezing value out of the Internet, or are they adding value?

Dave Winer Permalink to Dave Winer

PS: I wonder what Regis Philbin's real name is?

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."