Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

Summary: Facebook on Tuesday was awarded a patent for a social network news feed, setting the stage for a future battle with its social networking peers over similar technologies.

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Facebook on Tuesday was awarded a patent for a social network news feed, setting the stage for a future battle with its social networking peers over similar technologies.

The patent is specifically for "dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network" and effectively grants Facebook the opportunity to pursue other social networks who it deems are infringing on the company's patent, reports AllFacebook.

From the abstract:

A method for displaying a news feed in a social network environment is described. The method includes generating news items regarding activities associated with a user of a social network environment and attaching an informational link associated with at least one of the activities, to at least one of the news items, as well as limiting access to the news items to a predetermined set of viewers and assigning an order to the news items. The method further may further include displaying the news items in the assigned order to at least one viewing user of the predetermined set of viewers and dynamically limiting the number of news items displayed.

Status updates do not appear to be included in the patent, but instead the actions of a user's friends on the site. The patent also claims ownership over feed filters, feed advertising and feed searches.

Here's another look:

The patent obviously has implications (which now are unclear in scope) for Facebook's social network peers. Interestingly, the patent was submitted almost four years ago, in 2006, before sites such as Twitter had even launched. That's important if Facebook wants to begin enforcing its intellectual property.

Named in the patent are some of Facebook's top executives: founder Mark Zuckerberg, Ruchi Sanghvi, Andrew Bosworth, Chris Cox, Aaron Sittig, Chris Hughes, Katie Geminder and Dan Corson.

Topics: Collaboration, Legal, Networking, Social Enterprise

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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31 comments
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  • Isn't this covered by RSS feeds...

    ...that have been around for over a decade. Just sticking it on a social network is NOT what I consider an innovative and unique use of such a method. I think someone needs to challange this patent, just on basic principle. I'm tired of companies trying to lockup obvious uses of technology with patents, confirmed through the moronic patent office. Make a better mousetrap, and then patent it. Don't patent a previously made mousetrap, and call it something else.
    (oooooohhh, I can edit posts now!)
    el1jones
  • Way Too Obvious

    How in the world can they let them patent something so obvious?

    - we take recent content, rather than old stuff: DUH
    - we limit it by those people authorized to the content: DUH
    - we sort it: DUH
    - we provide links wherever it makes sense (it's on the Internet, for crying out loud, of course you will): DUH

    Anybody with a little bit of a clue of how the Internet works can come up with this, and could have in 2006. The only innovative thing was that they were the first ones to patent it. Simply ridiculous to let them do that.
    dunraven
    • I'd have to agree

      It's not really a true algorithm. It lacks specifics. This patent should not have been awarded. They might as well have patented the way they comb their hair.
      spstanley
  • WILL SOMEBODY STOP THIS BS!?!?!?!??!

    I don't know if FB is using this as an offensive tool and from the looks of their past donations to FOSS and FOSS usage I'd suspect they are doing it as a defense for all. But the fact that you can get a patent for this type of crap is ridiculous. Its nothing but RSS or any other type of notification or following system which I've seen in message boards and the like. And can't someone get around this patent by simply not calling their network and "social network". I mean otherwise you can easily twist this patent into covering news feeds PERIOD.
    storm14k
    • Argh!

      Yeah I also hope that it's a "defensive" patent on behalf of the FOSS community, but I am doubtful of that, and I find it baffling that it was granted given the scope of the prior art in abundance even before Facebook, for "social networks" or otherwise. I wonder if they'd sue Blogger for publishing people's updates as an XML feed, or anything else like that...
      trojjer
  • RE: Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

    That is ridiculous. About the same as if a newspaper tried to patent printing text. We seriously need discerning professionals working down there. I think I'm done with Facebook too.
    ziggah1
  • Horrible news

    This patent is bad news. A news feed which lists friends' activities has become THE core feature of social networking. There are boatloads of sites that include this type of feature today. For example, my home page on goodreads.com shows me my friends' recent activities. You can think of it as a domain-specific social network for readers. Are sites like this now crippled?

    There is so much more that can be done with social networking. This patent, if it means what it sounds like it means, will hamper other sites so much that no one but facebook will have any impact on the evolution of social networking. goodreads.com is a good example of this - they aren't attempting to be a facebook clone, but they are tailoring many of the same principles and features to fit a different context. The whole premise of their site is to make reading a social experience. Without news feeds they are dead because it makes that premise impossible (or at least lame). In addition to news feeds they have a lot of book-specific stuff, things like reading logs, book recommendations, quotes and bookmarks, etc. Preventing sites like these from displaying an activity feed prevents them from being true social networks. This in turn means that social networking won't have the chance to be applied in new contexts, which means we won't learn new things about how social networking can be applied. Patents are supposed to encourage innovation, not stifle it.
    zeblonite
  • RE: Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

    Crazy..Facebook, with all their "worldly experience" and
    then this...one would think they'd realize that this is
    crap! Next thing, I'll patent the English language (even
    though I'm an English speaking African) and they can put
    that in their pipe and smoke it!! ;-)
    dballant
  • RE: Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

    Unbelievable! I guess sites like slashdot that existed since 1997 will now be potentially paying royalties for the very similar technology they used since at least 2002 (can you tell the difference in the court??).. not that I expect someone from US patent office to know what slashdot or alike is, BUT.. it really makes it hard for the rest of the world to respect the decisions coming out of that office given the moronic decisions like this one.
    IMO 9 out of 10 patents I've seen come out of that place are made with intent to stem competitors development, or provide legal backing to sue competitor (where draining funds from a growing small/medium size company via long or ongoing ordeal is A method of dealing with them), and has nothing to do with supporting the actual development of technology or benefiting IT industry at large, let alone global populous.
    vasobre
  • You would think they'd get better artists

    for their patent applications. :)
    John Zern
  • Who would WANT to copy News Feed?

    News Feed is a horrible feature. It presents items in random order and drops random info. I always use Live Feed, and would prefer to never see News Feed again.
    halj78727
    • Umm...

      Live Feed is a news feed. Any site that implements something like Live Feed would be infringing on this patent.
      zeblonite
  • This gives me a lot of hope...

    A system which I've been developing might have somewhere around 10 and perhaps more methods which I could probably get patents for. Thank you Facebook for leading the way.
    adornoe
    • RE: This gives me a lot of hope...

      I have been thinking the same for some time now. I see so many stupid things given a patent that why not every other thing that I come up with? I don't know, I guess I could call what I was working on yesterday "a system for generating quizzes from a language's defined grammar rules."
      codefisher
  • RE: Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

    I think the blogosphere and journalists should stop playing
    into patents like these by labeling them as "technology".

    This is where the patent office needs more technologically
    aware reviewers...

    Databases use a big pile of technology to accomplish what
    they do. If I use a database and a set of programmed
    procedures to pull information out and display it on a screen,
    I have not done anything that hasn't been done before,
    literally billions of times. It doesn't become patentable just
    because I make a diagram of it. I would understand if they
    were using some as yet unpublished algorithm for drawing
    the info together then displaying that in some novel way.
    From what I can tell (and I've looked at doing something like
    this for clients), a feed of friend activity is nothing more than
    a series of crossed referenced lookups into the database.
    Everything they're describing is a natural extension of the
    tools provided with a database (cross referencing, user roles,
    filtering, etc.).

    The "method" they have for doing all of this (they claim to be
    patenting a method) is the application of ubiquitous SQL
    statements on data that has been defined since the dawn of
    man (names, what someone said, when it was said, what they
    did, when they did it, on and on).

    Seriously, I would consider most somewhat complex SQL
    statements written in the past 30 years to be prior art. I'd be
    amazed if there wasn't prior art for the display. There were
    plenty of social networks around before Facebook.

    If I can figure out how to copy what you've done (without
    consideration for actual time to implement) in less than 10
    seconds, I don't think you should be able to patent it.
    themacolyte
  • This is flat-out idiotic!

    What kind of moron at the patent office would issue such a patent ? this is absolutely ridiculous.
    jar-head
    • Lawyers provided pictures and claims... apparently enough for that

      The kind that probably only needs convincing with crudely drawn comic pictures...
      voltrarian
      • True.. Lawyers love this kind of thing...

        First they get paid for making the patent; then they get paid for suing other companies with the patent; Then they get paid to defend the patent. Then there are appeals, Cross-licensing contracts, and finally consulting on the loss of the patents.
        Layers don't care if something is actually patentable or not, as long as they get paid. So, they try, good patent or not.
        It's up to the Patent Office to sort out the good patents from the bad. If they did, it would make people think if they are going to waste their money filing a bogus patent.
        el1jones
  • RE: Facebook patents News Feed; sets stage for fight against social peers

    "The method further may further include..."

    One too many furthers there. Wonder if this is the author of this blog's error, or an error in the patent.
    brainsmith
  • Has somebody filed a patent for scamming people with bogus patents?

    NT
    voltrarian