Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

The pains of being ahead of the curve

Thanks to Garett Rogers for pointing out that Google has implemented "chatback" -- a new feature that allows people to click on links to open a chat session with you.

It's a lovely feature. Indeed, it was a lovely feature when we invented it three or four years ago at Convoq -- I did most of the design, and it sounds like Google's system is almost a direct copy. (Indeed, my ASAP Link was live on my LJ profile until we shut the project down.) It'll be gratifying if it proves useful to folks -- I thought it was a good idea then, and I still do -- but man, I'm getting really tired of inventing new things and have them finally proven out years later by other people. This is something like the third or fourth in just the past year.

Of course, it also leads me to wonder what the status of that particular patent is. I'm pretty sure that the ASAP Links patent wasn't fully granted yet by the time we shut down, but it might still be actively in-process. If so, Convoq's patent portfolio just jumped in value again: IIRC, it was one of our most defensible-looking patents, right up there with the Meet ASAP feature. Once again, I find myself with deeply mixed feelings about the whole patent thing.

ETA: Amusing. The Google version is similar to ASAP Links in the broad strokes -- except that it doesn't work nearly as well. For example, we provided a number of different form factors for ASAP Links, precisely because there is no good one-size-fits-all solution. The Google Chat badges require iframes, so they can't be used in, say, your LJ Profile, which is the place one would *most* like to put it. (Because they can be easily disabled, these links are *much* better for publishing publically than simply posting your handle.) ASAP Links could be used with simple image buttons, or even just links, so they could be used almost anywhere. And of course, ASAP Links were vastly more powerful -- not only could you do text chat, you could start a full audio/video conversation with them.

It looks like, in classic Google fashion, this is a very simplistic first cut. It'll be interesting to see whether they wind up implementing all the nuances that we decided were necessary to make the idea fully useful. And it does make me speculate that, if CommYou doesn't work out, there's something to be said for reviving Convoq's technology ideas (with a greatly simplified UI so ordinary mortals can use the damned thing)...
Tags: convoq, technology

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