While many media applications run in external viewers these days – think the separate RealOne player – Mr Berners-Lee is concerned that by making all inline content apps subject to patent, it would effectively wipeout millions, billions of webpages that form the history of the Web.
How? Because the people that own the patent, Eolas Technologies Inc, decided they would use their patent to sue Microsoft, claiming infringement in Internet Explorer. In August, a judge agreed and awarded Eolas $521 million. Microsoft is currently appealing the decision but it has already made clear it plans to redesign Explorer to bypass the patent.
Berners-Lee is no friend of Microsoft, particularly since Explorer regularly steamrollers over the W3C efforts to build international standard consensus by including its own proprietary features. However in this case, he is infuriated by companies attempting to claim ownership of parts of the system he helped build just to sue other companies and build a fat bank balance. If Explorer does change, it will not be backwards compatible – another nasty precedent that W3C is desperate to avoid.