[JDEV] MS Patents IM 'composing' feature

Nicholas Doyle nicholas.doyle at sympatico.ca
Wed Oct 8 23:51:28 CDT 2003

Cross posting to JDEV since im-patents doesn't seem very active...

I saw this on Slashdot tonight.  Microsoft has received a patent for a "System and method for activity monitoring and reporting in a computer network", patent no. 6,631,412.


The article mentions Powwow (from Tribal Voice, back in 1996) as maybe having been prior art.  The actual patent document actually refutes programs like UNIX talk, because it shows the conversation in 'real-time', and characters appear for each user as they are typed.  The MS patent seems to be for a mechanism to notify the user only that the other party is responding (not showing the actual response until it is 'sent'), and these 'user is typing' messages are turned on/off based on a timer.  I have not actually read the entire patent myself yet, just the abstract.

Here's a link to the patent:


Did Powwow seem to use a timer to turn off the notification (can't remember from when I used it briefly in '96)?  Does anything in the Jabber/XMPP spec specify the use of time-intervals for sending the composing/not composing messages?  If not, then maybe just clients which actually use timers would be infringing?

I tried (briefly) to hack this feature into Gabber 0.8 earlier this year, but got sidetracked.  I can't remember the specifics of the spec now, through I remember the Jabber docs being somewhat brief about this feature (and other x:events?).  Though I remember seeing on Jdev recently there is a new JEP for 'composing' now?  I believe this feature is extremely useful in IM programs (hence, trying to add it to Gabber, I know Gabber 2 already has it), almost necessary really, to try and have a proper conversation without constantly cutting each other off.  It would be a shame if the IM community, and particularly Jabber/XMPP, lost the use of such functionality because it is now MS's IP.

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