The technology of the Internet began its development in the 1960s, and its popularity expanded as the protocols and designs for a worldwide network infrastructure were made freely available to all who desired to implement them. The World Wide Web, invented by CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1991, owes its universal popularity to the fact that anyone can create a Web page, and anyone else with a browser can read it.
Unfortunately, some newcomers to this world of electronic co-operation are attempting to fence off certain bits of online technology from others, and their short-sighted actions threaten to impede the development of this technology for everyone. By exploiting the technical ignorance of patent offices, some companies are trying to get the exclusive legal right to use generic Internet technologies. If these moves are successful, we could well see the Internet fragment into a welter of stagnating, incompatible proprietary technologies.
That's why a number of netizens concerned at the abuse of intellectual property law have formed NoWebPatents.org, a site which encourages and empowers individuals to act against destructive corporate legal policies. Its first target is Amazon.com, which has obtained patents for several basic e-commerce techniques which have been independently developed by many other vendors.
The NoWebPatents campaign is itself innovative (no word on whether they've patented this idea). Amazon customers and shareholders are urged to boycott the company and state the amount of their business to date. The front page displays the number of customers and shareholders lost by the target company, as well as the financial losses caused by this action. This quantification of political action could be a model for enforcement of consumer opinion on the Internet - so watch for further developments.