The Secret Origins of Clippy: Microsoft’s Bizarre Animated Character Patents

By  |  Friday, January 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

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Search Assistant Patent

System for Improving Search Text

Filed December 23rd, 1998

Meet Earl, a surfer dude (get it?) who’s mostly a giant pair of lips and who seems to think he knows more about the Internet than you do. (Once again, I don’t know if Microsoft unleashed this exact idea on its customers, but it’s a variant of the Search Assistant from Windows XP.) Two scary things about this patent: 1) its title pitches it as a search improvement rather than a perverse joke; and B) this is apparently what Microsoft was doing to enhance Web search at the same time that Larry Page and Sergey Brin were founding Google.

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