Facebook Patents The News Feed (Updated)

By Nick O'Neill Comment

Facebook Feed Patent IconOn Tuesday, Facebook was awarded a major patent for “Dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network”. This is a huge deal for a number of reasons, most significantly that it grants Facebook the opportunity to pursue other social networks which are infringing on their patent. Included in the patent are additional claims including feed filters, feed advertising, searching the feed, and more. (update We’ve been told that this is about the implicit feed stories. Will update when we have more info.)

Earlier this morning we reported on another patent which actually has not yet been approved but was simply published. This patent is confirmed published. The application was submitted back in 2006, before many other social networks integrated the feed as a major component. Twitter, for example, didn’t even launch prior to Facebook submitting this patent which could theoretically hold significant implications.

The inventors named on the patent are some of the company’s top executives, including the founder, Mark Zuckerberg: Mark Zuckerberg, Ruchi Sanghvi, Andrew Bosworth, Chris Cox, Aaron Sittig, Chris Hughes, Katie Geminder, and Dan Corson. What this patent means for the future of the social networking space is unknown, however this patent could be considered as significant as the original six degrees patent.

In contrast to the patent that we wrote about this morning, the news feed patent is much more general, which means it could be interpreted a lot of ways. For example, below is the news feed generation process as described by the patent:

News Feed Generation Process

Essentially it includes the generation of feed stories followed by the limiting of viewers of those stories. As many avid followers of the social networking space know, the feed (also called the “stream”) has become one of the central components of online social activity. The entire Twitter product, for example, is a feed.

Whether or not Twitter should be concerned about this new patent award is unknown, however this could be considered one of the most significant social web patent since Jan. 16, 2001, the day the six degrees patent was first published.

It appears that this patent surrounds implicit actions. This means status updates, which is what Twitter is based on, are not part of this patent. Instead, this is about stories about the actions of a user’s friends. While still significant, the implications for competing social networks may be less substantial.