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Did an Apple Engineer Invent FB Messages In 2003? 128

Posted by timothy
from the if-that-then-this dept.
theodp writes "Q. How many Facebook engineers does it take in 2010 to duplicate a lone Apple engineer's 2003 effort? A. 15! On Nov. 15th, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Messages, which uses whatever method of communication is appropriate at the time — e.g., email, IM, SMS. A day later, ex-Apple software engineer Jens Alfke was granted a patent for his 2003 invention of a Method and apparatus for processing electronic messages, which — you guessed it — employs the most appropriate messaging method — e.g., email, IM, SMS — for the job. Citing Apple's lack of passion for social software, Alfke left Apple in 2008. After a layover at Google, Alfke landed at startup Rockmelt, whose still-in-beta 'social web browser' also sports a pretty nifty communications platform."
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Did an Apple Engineer Invent FB Messages In 2003?

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  • Nothing New (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How many Apple engineers does it take to duplicate a PARC engineer's effort?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How many trolls does it take to read the comments?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How many anti-Apple idiots continue TO GET IT WRONG about PARC and the Macintosh?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pharmboy (216950)

        Yes, because even though Steve Jobs said:

        "You could argue about the number of years it would take. You could argue about who might be the winners and losers in terms of companies in the industry, but I don't think rational people could argue that every computer wouldn't work this way someday."

        Steve Jobs, talking about the PARC Alto
        (http://www.vectronicsappleworld.com/macintosh/creation.html)

        ...it is obvious that the PARC didn't play a role in inspiring the Lisa or Mac or future Apple products. Even though

        • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Informative)

          by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @06:08PM (#34293520)

          Even though Steve got them to invest 1 million dollars into Apple (which paid handsomely for Xerox and was mutually beneficial)..."Good authors borrow, great authors steal."

          More specifically Xerox end of the deal was they opportunity to buy pre-IPO Apple stock. Something they couldn't have got otherwise. It's not theft if it's a deal - it's a transaction.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by t2t10 (1909766)

            Sure, it was "a deal"; that's not the issue. That doesn't change that Apple has been wrongly claiming to have invented much of this technology, not just in their PR, but also in lawsuits. And it doesn't change the fact that Apple has a tendency to misrepresent where their ideas come from.

            In fact, Apple simple doesn't have a research lab. They have good software developers, UI designers, and engineers. They get most of their idea either by copying others or by buying companies.

    • by AJWM (19027)

      None. Apple hired PARC engineers when they bought the designs.

    • How many blog postings to Slashdot before we realize that it's just a glorified blog, with stupid attempts at wit that are just annoying?
    • Re:Nothing New (Score:4, Informative)

      by bonch (38532) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:41PM (#34293366)

      None, since those engineers were hired by Apple, and Xerox engineers themselves have said Apple didn't rip them off. Did you know that the standard "File Edit View Window Help" menu layout originated at Apple? As did "cut-and-paste?"

      Undeterred, the anonymous cabal of Apple-haters that has taken hold on Slashdot in the last six months will continue their efforts.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by toby (759)

        "Xerox engineers themselves have said Apple didn't rip them off"

        Which is an understatement, really, since Apple formally licensed Xerox technology.

      • > the standard "File Edit View Window Help" menu layout originated at Apple?

        they had done a great thing by making it standard through guidelines and libraries, but IIRC the menu bar is the smalltalk object browser bar simplified. Grossly oversimplified, for my personal taste.

      • by nametaken (610866) *

        You must have missed the memo. Apple is the new Microsoft. ;)

      • by mretondo (809932)
        "File Edit View Window Help", "cut and paste", please, that was just the powder frosting on the cake. The Xerox system was pathetic by the Lisa and Mac standards (don't get me wrong they had great technology but not for end users). Apple invented overlapping Windows (thanks Bill Atkinson for your Regions), Model dialogs, the Menu Bar and with it Drop Down Menus, the single mouse button (click-drag-release). They came up with the idea the everything could be done with one mouse button and click-drag-release
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by horza (87255)

        Did you know that the standard "File Edit View Window Help" menu layout originated at Apple?

        That's a standard? Isn't it just a bunch of random words used that Windows may have copied but to be honest doesn't make much sense? I never understood why "Quit application" would be under "File". It's all a bit arbitrary.

        As did "cut-and-paste?"

        Really? Not according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], it was Xerox.

        Undeterred, the anonymous cabal of Apple-haters that has taken hold on Slashdot in the last six months will continue their ef

    • by mickwd (196449)

      More generally:

      ".....was granted a patent for his invention of a Method and apparatus for ${TASK} which -- you guessed it -- employs the most appropriate ${TASK_OPTION}.....for the job."

      There's a term for this - it's called Being An Engineer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      15! = 1,307,674,368,000. That's quite a bunch of engineers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Three. One to read the code, one to write the code, and one to lube up the giraffe for the post-launch party.

  • by wjh31 (1372867)
    1.3 trillion?
  • Same idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2010 @04:52PM (#34293114)

    The Apple developer may have put forward the idea in 2003, but this same technology was a key plot point in the movie AntiTrust, which came out in 2001. And the concept wasn't new then. So, no, an Apple Engineer didn't invent the new FB messaging system, it's an old idea. FB just happens to have implemented it.

    • Which is why this entire patent nonsense is exactly that: nonsense.
    • by westlake (615356)

      this same technology was a key plot point in the movie AntiTrust, which came out in 2001.

      Fiction doesn't count.

      • Re:Same idea (Score:4, Insightful)

        by vakuona (788200) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:43PM (#34293374)
        Why doesn't fiction count? If it's obvious enough to a person who is writing 'fiction' why should a patent be awarded. I could trawl through old Star Trek movies looking for ideas, and patent the concepts I get from there.
        • Re:Same idea (Score:5, Informative)

          by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday November 20, 2010 @07:31PM (#34294132) Homepage Journal

          Why doesn't fiction count? If it's obvious enough to a person who is writing 'fiction' why should a patent be awarded. I could trawl through old Star Trek movies looking for ideas, and patent the concepts I get from there.

          Because prior art only counts for what it teaches or enables one of ordinary skill in the art to do. Otherwise, it's considered "non-enabling prior art". H.G. Wells wrote about a time machine. Can you read his book, and then build one? No. So, it hasn't added a time machine to the public domain other than the concept of a time machine, and granting you a patent on a working time machine (should you be able to design and build one) wouldn't be removing anything from the public domain.

          It's not a matter of "fiction" not counting - highly descriptive fiction would count as prior art for everything it describes in sufficient enabling detail. The issue is that most fiction isn't that descriptive, and doesn't actually teach those ideas.

          • by Tordre (1447083)

            but if you have a time machine you can go back before the story came out and patent it then

          • by butlerm (3112)

            Because prior art only counts for what it teaches or enables one of ordinary skill in the art to do.

            That is ridiculous. This patent teaches exactly *nothing*. Any well educated sixth grader could have written down everything unique about this patent twenty years ago. The technology to do so was well known fifty years ago. This patent has enabled exactly nothing except government endorsed fraud and deception.

            • Because prior art only counts for what it teaches or enables one of ordinary skill in the art to do.

              That is ridiculous. This patent teaches exactly *nothing*. Any well educated sixth grader could have written down everything unique about this patent twenty years ago. The technology to do so was well known fifty years ago.

              [Citation needed]

              And if you can find a citation, that's prior art. Just saying "I don't need no steenking citation, I have truthiness gut-feelings that 50 years ago, this technology was known" isn't going to get you anywhere, in court, in front of the USPTO, or in reality.

              And if you can't find a citation, then maybe it wasn't actually known. In which case, there's no fraud or deception, and this is a good patent.

              Burden is on you - others have already looked for prior art and failed. You claim it exists,

          • by sznupi (719324)

            Isn't this case of UI / "way of presenting things" patents? I'd say that visual art can easily cover such...

      • Re:Same idea (Score:5, Informative)

        by MrHanky (141717) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:54PM (#34293432) Homepage Journal

        Wrong. A Donald Duck story from 1949 was once cited as a prior art example, denying a patent on a method of raising a sunken ship. Link [iusmentis.com].

        • by robot256 (1635039)
          You mean back when prior art was actually a considered before granting/denying a patent? Or did that come up in a law suit like everything else?
          • by robot256 (1635039)
            And then I RTFL and answered my own question. Of course it was struck down after the fact, no patent clerk is going to look up Donald Duck before granting what is otherwise a creative patent.
        • by adavies42 (746183)

          and heinlein invented the waterbed [wikipedia.org]

  • Rockmelt? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @04:57PM (#34293138) Journal

    The web browser which solves this problem? And I quote Daring Fireball since I agree:

    "They solved the problem of Chrome having a nice, simple, minimalist interface."

    I have to wonder how much RM *really* do for the user, compared to Chrome with various Facebook extensions.

  • Isn't the cat out of the bag? Facebook is one giant data mining scheme for advertisers. Why would anyone opt-in for that, especially when it comes to email?
    • Never underestimate stupid users.
    • by JazzXP (770338)
      Isn't Gmail the same. And yes I use Gmail. That said, I trust Google more than Facebook.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The same exact words could be used to describe Google. I don't have any problem with that: Ads are fine, they allow me to use a lot of great services for free so I've learned to live with them (though I block the most annoying flash banners, etc.). Now, datamining companies want to make the ads more targeted so that I would actually see more ads about the subjects that I'm interested in? Sign me up. Really, I'd prefer that. Everyone wins.

      Combine handy services with that? Ones that allow me to do completely

  • by Dahamma (304068)

    I don't understand... I thought it was invented by an underachieving officer worker at a paper factory in Scranton, PA.

  • by John3 (85454) <john3NO@SPAMcornells.com> on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:07PM (#34293186) Homepage Journal

    Ryan Howard already has this up and running...it's called Wuphf! [wuphf.com]

    • by feepness (543479)

      Ryan Howard already has this up and running...it's called Wuphf! [wuphf.com]

      Yeah, but they'll be out of funding a week from today!

  • prior art? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jc42 (318812) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:08PM (#34293194) Homepage Journal

    The main point of the patent's claims seems to be the selection of protocols based on a set of criteria. I'd wonder how many zillions of examples of "prior art" we can dig up for something that is basically keeping a list of alternative protocols/routes, and selecting one of them.

    Thus, part of the "handshake" used in the venerable uucp system was a pair of messages, in which one end effectively says "I have the following protocol packages: X, Q, V1, V2, V3, R7, and C", the other end looks at the list, and send back a message saying "Let's use protocol package R7". The simplest implementation would simply pick the first name in the list that both have, but other versions would pick the fastest or cheapest or most reliable protocol.

    The value of this is that it made for easy introduction of new protocols, typically when new hardware became available. Thus, when Ethernet came out, a bunch of people developed on a uucp package for it, and new releases of uucp would contain the Ethernet protocol. Whenever two ends found that they had an Ethernet route to each other, they could use it, but they could still talk to releases without Ethernet as they always had, using an older protocol. Eventually, uucp also had a TCP package, and it was fun watching uucp transfer data via TCP at speeds much faster than FTP or SMTP could. (I think this is probably no longer true, though.)

    In any case, the idea of a comm-link setup routine choosing among a list of protocols (or drivers or hardware or however you like to think of it) is a lot older than the events in this story. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find such approaches that date back to the 1950s. After all, it really is something that should be obvious to any competent engineer who has even the simplest computer available to set up the connections.

    • by volkerdi (9854)

      I'd wonder how many zillions of examples of "prior art" we can dig up for something that is basically keeping a list of alternative protocols/routes, and selecting one of them.

      Unfortunately, as of about a week ago, USPTO will no longer consider prior art as one of the tests of "obviousness" when deciding the validity of a patent claim. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Cite?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by volkerdi (9854)

          http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101108/02464211754/us-patent-office-makes-it-harder-to-reject-patents-for-obviousness.shtml

          • Uh, no. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday November 20, 2010 @07:44PM (#34294230) Homepage Journal

            http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101108/02464211754/us-patent-office-makes-it-harder-to-reject-patents-for-obviousness.shtml

            Yeah, there was a big stink when that story first appeared on Slashdot, all because of people who didn't actually bother to read the USPTO guidelines. The Supreme Court described 7 tests for obviousness in KSR, back in 2006. Since then, there have been several dozen court cases. The new guidelines describe those cases to clarify the 7 tests. However, only 4 of the tests have been issues in the several dozen court cases, so in describing them, the new guidelines only talk about those 4. However, they state:

            The decisions of the Federal Circuit discussed in this 2010 KSR Guidelines provide Office personnel as well as practitioners with additional examples of the law of obviousness. The purpose of the 2007 KSR Guidelines was, as stated above, to help Office personnel to determine when a claimed invention is not obvious, and to provide an appropriate supporting rationale when an obviousness rejection is appropriate. Now that a body of case law is available to guide Office personnel and practitioners as to the boundaries between obviousness and nonobviousness, it is possible in this 2010 KSR Guidelines Update to contrast situations in which the subject matter was found to have been obvious with those in which it was determined not to have been obvious. Thus, Office personnel may use this 2010 KSR Guidelines Update in conjunction with the 2007 KSR Guidelines (incorporated into MPEP 2141 and 2143) to provide a more complete view of the state of the law of obviousness.

            Sheesh. Complaining that they're now not considering prior art as one of the tests of "obviousness" is like complaining that Apple isn't making laptops anymore, because you saw an ad that only shows a picture of the iPhone or iPad, regardless of the text at the bottom that discusses using an iPhone with your Apple Macbook laptop: not only are you wrong in your FUD-based interpretation, the thing you're citing says you're wrong.

  • I don't get this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman (158191) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:08PM (#34293196) Homepage Journal

    I know I don't speak for the world but I totally don't get the idea of "we'll get the message to them, somehow." I want to control the "somehow." If it's a short message that warrants interrupting whatever they're doing, I'll text. If I'm already sitting in front of a computer and a longer conversation is required, I'll IM. If it's more detailed and/or not time sensitive, I'll email, and furthermore, depending on what it is, I'll send it to their home address or their work address. Sometimes I want a conversation, sometimes I want a monologue. Not all mediums are equally good at or suitable for all types of communication.

    Not every message requires an immediate response. Some messages very much don't need an immediate response. If I'm emailing someone and want them to look at something complex online, the last thing I want to do is have them get the message right this second while they're in the grocery store. I do, however, want to send it now because that's what I'm doing. If I'm on IM with someone and they're going to step away from their computer and start driving a car I very much do not want the conversation transparently shifting to SMS.

    And finally, one-size-fits-all messaging becomes even less desirable as you move across time zones. It's bad enough that I work with people in another time zone and they always want to schedule "mid-morning" meetings that are actually in the middle of my lunch. I don't want my work or my friends following me everywhere I go. My life is cut up into chunks: work time, family time, friend time, me time. I like being able to enforce a little solitude and cut off any arbitrary group at any arbitrary time just based on where I am and what devices I'm near.

    • I don't have mod points today, but you'd get one if I did. Great argument against one-size-fits-all messaging.
    • Not every message requires an immediate response.

      This is something that many people today, heads down and furiously texting on their phones, don't seem to understand. They waste their time sending or receiving meaningless or trivial texts instead of doing something, anything, that might have some lasting benefit for themselves or others. Those Windows 7 spots (really? [youtube.com]) might have a point; not about Windows 7, but about the whole texting culture in general.

    • by rthille (8526)

      I do the same thing, but there's a good argument to be made that the medium should separate from that information. Perhaps meta-tags on the message, combined with settings on the receiver's various devices.

  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:30PM (#34293296)

    I have genius ideas around 3 times a day. Nobody gives a damn, ideas are plenty everywhere.

    Are we really going to start nitpicking that someone had the idea of one or the other successful product someone else made successful?

    Facebook did something people enjoy and long for with it. Good for them. The guy that thought of it first obviously failed with that for about 7 years.

    I know, it's just random trolling on the front page, but it irks me.

    Disclaimer: I don't have a Facebook account, nor am I very found of them. I don't own an Apple device or product either.

    • In this particular case we are talking a patent - this means that with the full force of more than one countries judicial system *no one else is allowed to do this* without permission from the person who says they came up with the idea. So yea, if there is prior art then it is *very important*. If it had been first to market, or heck even a copyright where the *specific* implementation is protected then things would be great. But no, this is a patent wherein *how* you do it isn't near as important as *what*

  • Forget about that social messaging patent. The fellow should get a patent for an algorithm that automatically generates commercials like the one for Rockmelt. E.g. a pseudo screencast featuring a voiceover and folksy music, just like Google and Apple commercials.
  • If you work for any serious company, or even an non-serious one, you will know that patents belong to your employer, and not yourself. It's in the fine print of your contract. Hell, my company, an IT firm even has first right on patents that I might come up with, that have nothing to do with their IT business. In other words, if I step in some dog shit, and come up with an idea for a better doggie pooper scooper, I need to get a waiver from from my employer to be able to patent it myself.

    And patents hav

    • by Steeltoe (98226)

      Patents solve no problems today other than making lawyers rich and collusion of huge corporations to squash out creative competitors.

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday November 20, 2010 @05:40PM (#34293360)

    Steve Jobs in 1991: [cnn.com] Somebody at IBM a few years ago saw our NextStep operating system as a potential diamond to solve their biggest and most profound problem, that of adding value to their computers with unique software. Unfortunately, as I learned, IBM is not a monolith. It is a very large place with lots of faces, and they all play musical chairs. Somewhere along the line this diamond got dropped in the mud, and now it's sitting on somebody's desk who thinks it's a dirt clod. Inside that dirt clod is still a diamond, but they don't see it.

  • "I invent nothing, I rediscover." -- Auguste Rodin
  • including me.

    They just don't happen to have a several hundred million user-large social network to serve as their user database.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Well, yeah. I think this headline is silly. There is very little invention here to argue about. And maybe Facebook Messages isn't supposed to be an "invention." Maybe it's just supposed to be a feature on the Facebook site that Facebook users will want to use. Ebay didn't invent online auctions either. None of the magazines I read invented the idea of magazines, and the grocery store where I shop didn't invent groceries. Who cares?
  • Don't patent your idea at company A if you're going to create startup B to make the idea really happen.

  • From: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Iceland+Telecom+Among+World's+First+Operators+to+Implement+Ericsson's...-a057889293 [thefreelibrary.com]

    Iceland Telecom (Siminn) is among the world’s first operators to run a
    commercial field trial of Ericsson’s communications portal iPulse – an
    intelligent, IP-based application, simplifying and making
    communications more convenient for users.

    With iPulse which is jointly developed with OZ.COM, Iceland Telecom will
    be able to offer its subscribers an application that instantly an

  • When I was designing the CAKE protocol [cakem.net] in 2003 I already had the idea of doing this. It was 'Key Addressed Crypto Encapsulation' for a reason. The idea was to choose whichever transport method was handy for the message.

    A friend's interest has got me working on this again. Hopefully I can get a working system together soon so other people can play with it.

  • a patent...WHAT?!?

    Does Steve know about this?!
  • Jens has always been worth 15 ordinary men, so this is not surprising.
  • Personally, I can't believe that you can patent using the best method for a message. Sheesh, if this were the car world, they would have patented using the best tool to mount a tire. It just gets weirder and weirder.

  • It should be clear by now, that perhaps with the tiniest of exceptions, patents are among the most economically destructive inventions in human history. Real property has clearly defined boundary lines, and is not subject to independent invention. Patents on the other hand rarely describe anything remotely inventive, and are purposefully so positively vague that know one knows whose patents they are violating without a multi-million dollar court fight. If a small company loses, it is usually fatal. Ther

  • by bjartur (1705192)

    Isn't that the main idea behind SIP, anyway?

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