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Apple threatens to block W3C widget standard

updated 05:15 pm EDT, Tue April 7, 2009

Apple threatens W3C

Apple is currently blocking the adoption of a new web standard, a World Wide Web Consortium workgroup notes. The W3C is in the process of developing a standard for web widgets -- code embeddable throughout multiple websites. Apple has a patent covering automatic software updates however, and suggests that the widget standard may violate it. If so, Apple is refusing to license the patent royalty-free.

The W3C has taken the step of forming a Patent Advisory Group, which is analyzing the proposed widget standard to gauge the validity of Apple's claims. Should a problem be found, the standard may have to be amended or dropped entirely, which could interfere with the spread of Web 2.0 and 3.0 concepts. Apple uses an assortment of natively-coded widgets, split between Mac OS X, the iPhone and the iPod touch.

by MacNN Staff



  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What do automatic software updates have to do with widgets? Why would it be necessary for a widget to automatically update? Is that even desirable?

    (not that I'm defending software patents, mind, they're not desirable either)

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Broken Patents

    Just another example of a broken software patent system that hinders progress and innovation rather than fostering it.

    To take a shot at answering the post above, Apple might be trying to protect an overly broad patent on software updates over the internet, and these widgets might be argued to violate the patent if they specified some kind of versioning system that lets webmasters or end users know when a new version of the widget is available (likely necessary to ensure that the updated widget didn't break their site's layout or rendering), along with any changes in dependency for the new widget version (changes in support for browsers, use of different web APIs, etc.). Some kind of version control and update notification system seems appropriate for a widget standard, and I could easily see a need to duplicate some of the functionality covered in Apple's patent.

    Apple may or may not be simply trying to protect their patent, rather than targeting the standardization of widgets in particular, but the real problem here is that Apple was granted an extremely generic and broad software patent in the first place. The USPTO needs to keep their lazy, ignorant noses out of software in general, as they clearly have no idea what they're doing, and established companies are building huge war chests of very broad patents, making it increasingly difficult for any newcomers to compete in the software field.

  1. lockhartt

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "not that I'm defending software patents, mind, they're not desirable either"

    Obviously you don't develop software.

    Like most things, patents are theoretically great... it's the practice part where the issues occur. Fix the system, don't blame the concept of patents.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Auto update would be wanted to allow said widget to be updated by the source web page when changes are made to the underlying data I'd site layout that the widget connects. Not having them update will just lead to broken widgets that users will have to know to update, or sites supporting backward compatibility for years.

    Keep in mind that these are widgets found on web pages, not like in dashboard or on the iPhone.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Back to the point

    And that's great. But that's also a program on your computer, installing extensions on your computer.

    Are you supporting that every website that uses widgets create their own update mechanism to inform users that the widgets were updated?

    And your concept might be 'better' for you, but most people will have no idea what's in each release and just hit "update" because they're prompted to. And it is a web-page widget. Why would you care? When you go to MobileMe or Google to check your email, do you know or care that the underlying code has changed?

    You also claim it is safer. How, exactly? Because you know an update is happening? That's not safer, it is perceived safety. It's only safer if you stop what you're doing, go to the web site of each extension, download the source code, validate it's correctness and lack of security holes, and then install it. No one does that. They just hit "Update" and move on.

    And do you realize that NOT updating the extension could cause errors with Firefox, or leave open a security hole that allows in an attacker?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I wonder how much royalty money Apple gets from MS for this patent, as it sounds exactly like MS Update when set up to auto-update.

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