Re: Interview with David Wetherell of CMGI

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From: Gordon Mohr (
Date: Tue Jan 23 2001 - 01:25:30 PST

AltaVista started in 1995. But an AltaVista search on "internet history wais
veronica" (
gives as its top hit , which explains

   * Archie, from Peter Deutsch & McGill University, was already spidering and
     indexing FTP sites in 1989
   * WAIS, from Brewster Kahle & company, was full-text indexing content soon
     thereafter (certainly no later than 1991)
   * Veronica, from University of Nevada-Reno, was spidering and indexing
     gopherspace by 1992

So these AV patents can't be nearly as broad as Wetherell implies in the
interview. More likely, they apply to specific optimizations of the spider-
index-search process that AV thinks they invented first.

Only time will tell whether those optimizations are really novel, crucial
techniques that others will pay to license -- or just more junk patents that
companies can afford to ignore, invalidate, or circumvent.

In the meantime, overstating the breadth of AltaVista's patents to the press
will only breed resentment of AV and CMGI as patent-abusers. For example, the
query referenced above will likely be *my* final AltaVista search.

- Gordon

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