Facebook has been awarded a patent that appears to give it sweeping intellectual property jurisdiction over location-enabled social networking, which may be a powerful weapon for the company that has broad implications for the industry.
First reported by ZDNet UK's sister site BNET, patent number 7,809,805 — called "Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members" — is extremely detailed. Among the concepts it claims are the sending and receiving of location-based status messages — what are commonly known as 'check-ins' — the technology to store these check-ins, the ability to sense a street address to store in a check-in, and the receiving of a friend's check-in.
Facebook considered purchasing Foursquare, but after Foursquare asked for a higher price tag Facebook withdrew its bid. In August, Facebook launched Facebook Places, a check-in service that would ultimately enable third parties to incorporate geolocation into their Facebook apps. While Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that Facebook Places is "already by far the biggest places and location application that's out there", there are still plenty of competitors. Foursquare, despite recent server outages, dominates headlines. Google still has its Latitude platform, and Twitter recently turned on "geotagging" of tweets.
For more on this story, read Facebook granted geolocation patent on CNET News.