Microsoft has extended an olive branch to some of its harshest critics by proposing a way for Internet users to "cut and paste" live eeb data across different sites, just as they can between computer programs.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief technical officer, told a conference of top web developers here that his company wants to license a simple technology for sharing data between eeb and computer programs - whether Microsoft-controlled or not.

"Live Clipboard," as the concept technology is known, would take the widely used clipboard feature common to many computer programs and extend it to the web, allowing users to share organized data between web sites or move it into PC programs.

In a slide show demonstration, Mr Ozzie showed how users could simply cut and paste complex structured information from one web site to another, or move the same data, preserving its formatting, to programs running on Windows desktop computers.

He copied personal contact information out of his computer address book into an online shopping checkout page, filling out the order processing pages in a quick gesture, for example.

"It allows the user to copy structured information from one place to another in a non-geeky fashion," Mr Ozzie told some 1,000 programmers and web developers at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference - an intellectual hothouse for developers who gather each year to debate how best to build a new generation of collaborative software based on open source software principles that pose a big challenge to Microsoft.

Striking a decidedly humbler tone than older generations of Microsoft executives, Mr Ozzie showed how his websharing prototype can work on a variety of nonMicrosoft Web sites.

To emphasize his point, Mr Ozzie used the open source Firefox browser rather than Microsoft's own Internet Explorer browser.

"It's impressive stuff," said Doc Searles, a coauthor of marketing manual The Cluetrain Manifesto and a leading open source advocate. "It shows the amount of change that has occurred in Microsoft management."

Sam Ruby, an IBM engineer who is director of the Apache Software Foundation, whose open source software is widely used to run web servers, also said he was keen to give the web clipboard software a try, but still needed to be convinced of Microsoft's commitment to open standards.

Mr Ozzie copied a calendar entry from the independent event listings web site Eventful and pasted it into his Outlook calendar, moving not just text, but all of the appropriate elements that made up the full appointment entry.

In a more dramatic attempt to impress the geeky audience, Mr Ozzie also took location-tracking data that appears on his personal blog that monitors his movements via his mobile phone and pasted it on to the page of youthful social networking site Facebook.

He then copied an updating list of his contacts from Facebook into a Microsoft web-based map-ping application and the locations of his contacts immediately appeared as flags on the map.

Mr Ozzie said he conceived of the idea a month ago while mulling the history of how computer user interaction had evolved over the past two to three decades.