Facebook today successfully patented the News Feed. Almost six years after filing for it, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Facebook the patent. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is among the listed inventors.
The patent gives the company a strong lock on the ability to let users see not just status messages, pictures, and links to videos of online friends, but also actions those friends take. Those actions could include playing a game or leaving a comment on someone else's post.
Here are the basics:
U.S. Patent No. 8,171,128 — “Communicating a newsfeed of media content based on a member's interactions in a social network environment” – Filed on August 11, 2006, and granted on May 1, 2012.
A system and method provides dynamically selected media content to someone using an electronic device in a social network environment. Items of media content are selected for the user based on his or her relationships with one or more other users. The user's relationships with other users are reflected in the selected media content and its format. An order is assigned to the items of media content, for example, based on their anticipated importance to the user, and the items of media content are displayed to the user in the assigned order. The user may change the order of the items of media content. The user's interactions with media content available in the social network environment are monitored, and those interactions are used to select additional items of media content for the user.
Reading the patent more closely, you'll see Facebook discusses how to let users see certain status updates, pictures, links to videos, and even actions friends take. The social networking giant describes keeping a profile of each person on the social network in a database, identifying relationships between said users, generating "stories" based on the connections, and then creating a News Feed for each user.
Last but certainly not least, Facebook watches what actions the viewer takes in response to the stories (such as Liking, Sharing, or commenting), and then uses that information to serve more stories. It's also noted that content can come from outside the social network and that users can change preference settings to filter in or out what stories they see.
The patent should help Facebook defend itself against any company that says it owns the News Feed concept. In fact, the social networking giant has other such patents already, including this one:
U.S. Patent No. 7,827,208 — “Generating a feed of stories personalized for members of a social network” – Filed on August 11, 2006, and granted November 2, 2010.
Systems and methods for generating dynamic relationship-based content personalized for members of a web-based social network are provided. At least one action of one or more members of a web-based social network is associated with relationship data for the one or more members to produce consolidated data. One or more elements associated with the consolidated data is identified and used to aggregate the consolidated data. Further exemplary methods comprise weighting by affinity the aggregated consolidated data to generate dynamic relationship-based content personalized for the members of the web-based social network.
The two are very similar. Facebook is already using the second one to countersue Yahoo. I wouldn't be surprised if this one was added to the arsenal as well.
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