CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/887,051, filed Sep. 21, 2010, which application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/964,470, filed Dec. 26, 2007, which is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/393,398, filed Mar. 30, 2006, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,693,937, which is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/090,024, filed Mar. 28, 2005, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,233,973, which is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/824,648, filed Apr. 4, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,917,961, which is a Continuation-in-Part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/537,569, filed Mar. 30, 2000 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,615,238, which applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
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OF THE INVENTION
1) Field of the Invention
This invention pertains to the field of the Internet and, more specifically, to a system and method for communicating information over the Internet.
2) Description of the Related Art
To facilitate understanding of the background and preferred embodiments of the invention, the following terms and acronyms are used through this specification:
Client-Server. A model of interaction in a distributed computer system in which a program at one site sends a request to a program at another site and waits for a response. The requesting program is called the “client,” and the program which responds to the request is called the “server.” In the context of the World Wide Web (discussed below), the client is a “Web browser” (or simply “browser”) which runs on a computer of a user; the program which responds to browser requests by serving Web pages is commonly referred to as a “Web server.”
Dialog Box. A window or box that appears on a display screen to present information and request user input or user data.
Hyperlink. A navigational link from one document to another, or from one portion (or component) of a document to another. Typically, a hyperlink is displayed as a highlighted word or phrase that can be selected by clicking on it using a mouse to jump to the associated document or documented portion.
Hypertext System. A computer-based informational system in which documents (and possibly other types of data entities) are linked together via hyperlinks to form a user-navigable “Web.”
Internet. A collection of interconnected (public and/or private) networks that are linked together by a set of standard protocols (such as TCP/IP and HTTP) to form a global, distributed network. (While this term is intended to refer to what is now commonly known as the Internet, it is also intended to encompass variations which may be made in the future, including changes and additions to existing standard protocols.)
World Wide Web (“Web”). Used herein to refer generally to both (i) a distributed collection of interlinked, user-viewable hypertext documents (commonly referred to as Web documents or Web pages) that are accessible via the Internet, and (ii) the client and server software components which provide user access to such documents using standardized Internet protocols. Currently, the primary standard protocol for allowing applications to locate and acquire Web documents is HTTP, and the Web pages are encoded using HTML. However, the terms “Web” and “World Wide Web” are intended to encompass future markup languages and transport protocols which may be used in place of (or in addition to) HTML and HTTP.
Web Site. A computer system that serves informational content over a network using the standard protocols of the World Wide Web. Typically, a Web site corresponds to a particular Internet domain name, such as “ASKFORFREE.COM®,” and includes the content associated with a particular organization. As used herein, the term is generally intended to encompass both (i) the hardware/software server components that serve the informational content over the network, and (ii) the “back end” hardware/software components, including any non-standard or specialized components, that interact with the server components to perform services for Web site users.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language). A standard coding convention and set of codes for attaching presentation and linking attributes to informational content within documents. (HTML 2.0 is currently the primary standard used for generating Web documents.) During a document authoring stage, the HTML codes (referred to as “tags”) are embedded within the informational content of the document. When the Web document (or HTML document) is subsequently transferred from a Web server to a browser, the codes are interpreted by the browser and used to parse and display the document. Additionally in specifying how the Web browser is to display the document, HTML tags can be used to create links to other Web documents (commonly referred to as “hyperlinks”). For more information on HTML, see Ian S. Graham, The HTML Source Book, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1995 (ISBN 0471-11894-4).
HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol). The standard World Wide Web client-server protocol used for the exchange of information (such as HTML documents, and client requests for such documents) between a browser and a Web server. HTTP includes a number of different types of messages which can be sent from the client to the server to request different types of server actions. For example, a “GET” message, which has the format GET, causes the server to return the document or file located at the specified URL (see below).
URL (Uniform Resource Locator). A unique address which fully specifies the location of a file or other resource on the Internet. The general format of a URL is protocol://machine address:port/path/filename. The port specification is optional, and if none is entered by the user, the browser defaults to the standard port for whatever service is specified as the protocol. For example, if HTTP is specified as the protocol, the browser will use the HTTP default port of 80.
DHTML (Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language). An enhanced version of HTML which includes dynamic presentation features such as cascading style sheets (CSS), which enhance a Web page designer\'s control over the placement of specific elements in a Web page.
There is a constant challenge for Internet Web site operators to attract visitors and to create “stickiness” and build loyalty to their Web sites. Accordingly, in an effort to build and maintain visitor loyalty, Web site operators provide a variety of services to their visitors via the site\'s Web pages. Such services may include opinion polls, surveys, contests in which the Web site visitors may participate, and “help” and “contact us” services where a visitor may obtain additional information or communicate feedback with a Web site operator.
In the past, such services have been made available to visitors through hyperlinks, such as buttons, embedded on the Web site\'s home Web page. As is well known, when an Internet user viewing a particular Web page “clicks on” or selects a hyperlink on a Web page that the user is currently viewing (the ‘host” Web page), the user\'s Web browser is directed away from that host Web page, and a new, linked-to Web page is loaded into the Web browser in its place. Alternatively, the user\'s computer may open a second Web browser window containing the linked-to Web page, covering the host Web page on the user\'s computer display screen. Or, in some cases, a “pop-up box” opens on the user\'s computer display screen, covering all or part of the host Web page
Thus, when a user clicks on a hyperlink to take advantage of any of these services included in a host Web page which the user is viewing, the user\'s view of the host Web page disappears, is blocked, or is otherwise significantly altered.
However, in many cases, the provider of the host Web page does not want to have its host Web page disappear or be covered on the user\'s computer display screen, or even to have the user\'s attention turned away from the host Web page. This may be the case where the host Web page includes paid advertisement banners and/or paid-for embedded links to other Web pages, such that the provider of the host Web page may lose revenue if the user leaves the host Web page or the host\'s Web site. Also, it is undesirable for the user to have to wait until a new Web page can be downloaded into their computer\'s browser to take advantage of these services, such as “help” or “contact us” etc.
In response to these needs, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/537,569, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference for all purposes as if fully set forth herein, discloses an evolving interactive dialog box for an Internet Web page. After the user enters data into a user data entry box of a first revolution of the evolving interactive dialog box, the first revolution is replaced “in place” with a second revolution without disturbing or affecting any other part of the host Web page being displayed by the user\'s computer. Thus, the user is not driven or distracted away from the host Web site while submitting user data via the Internet to be processed. And, the user is not forced to wait while a new Web page is downloaded into their computer\'s browser.
The present inventors have subsequently discovered that the evolving interactive dialog box first disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/537,569 can be very useful in a number of different Internet applications. The inventors have also discovered that the utility of the evolving interactive dialog box can be especially enhanced in certain variants and/or if certain additional features are incorporated therein.
Accordingly, it would be advantageous to provide an improved evolving interactive dialog box. Other and further objects and advantages will appear hereinafter.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIGS. 1A and 1B show a first preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 2A and 2B show a second preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 3A and 3B show a third preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 4A and 4B show a fourth preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 5A and 5B show a fifth preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 6A and 6B show a sixth preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;
FIGS. 7A and 78 show a seventh preferred embodiment of an evolving interactive dialog box for a Web page;