Amazon.com has apparently just received a patent on cookies entitled "Use of browser cookies to store structured data."
The patent application claims priority back to Feb. 2, 1999. Yet apparently Amazon.com cited only one non-patent piece of prior art to the examiner. One! In other words, Amazon.com's attorneys are telling the examiner that of all the products, webpages, and publications deals within cookies and other means of storing user experience on a network, there was only once ACM article in the history of computing that discussed anything even relevant to this patent. Unbelievable, IMHO.
So let's look at Claim 1. Basically, it covers a method of:
1) storing, on a server of the web site, schema data which specifies a schema for encoding at least one data structure within browser cookies;
2) translating the data structure into a character string according to the schema;
3) incorporating the character string into a browser cookie to be stored on a user computer; and
4) subsequently, in response to the server receiving the browser cookie from the user computer, using the schema data to translate the character string back into the data structure;
5) wherein the step of translating the data structure into a character string is performed by executable code according to the schema data, such that types of data structures encoded within browser cookies may be changed over time by modifying the schema, without modifying the executable code.
Sooo.. what are we talking here? An algorithm for storing a browser cookie as a character string (e.g. unique identifier) so that information about a user's experience can be stored as it changes over time? What data structure can't be set up to contained modified data over time?
I'm no expert in the history of databases or web site software, but on first glance, it seems to me that there is nothing here unique to the Internet or the web but rather simply someone reframing old ways of data utilization in new bottles.