Did Facebook Just Patent Twitter?

Facebook was just granted a patent for something that should prove to be controversial. Patent #7,669,123, which was filed for in 2006, is for “A method for displaying a news feed in a social network environment…” The abstract reads:

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.

It sounds to me like they just patented a fairly obvious mechanism that has been long used by sites like Twitter, Digg, Reddit, RSS readers, blogs, etc..

Am I the only one who isn’t okay with this sort of patent-trolling behavior? Why does the USPTO keep letting these kinds of application through? It’s bad enough that Amazon is still fighting to have their one-click buying patent approved, and now we have another stupid patent that is just too obvious. Facebook is by no means the first website to have a “news feed,” and the idea is hardly patent-worthy.

Facebook Just Patented The Feed – What Does That Mean For Everyone That Uses Them? [TheNextWeb]

  • Rory M

    The difference is that Facebook aggregates its news feed information from a number of different sources (photos, events, user interactions, user connections etc) based on popularity and relevance, while a site like Digg or Twitter pull everything from a more centralised source.
    Facebook’s move is clever (business-wise), since it allows them to keep a monopoly on an “integral” part of any new social network site; but I believe the Diggs, Reddits and Twitters of this world still have a lot of wiggle-room.

  • http://www.bookadvice.net minerva66

    The difference is not significant enough to warrant a patent. And you just said the key word in the matter. Allowing them to have a monopoly on something that is an obvious progression from something already in existence is not right. Add to that the fact that some of the patents being approved are for ideas already being used by others. How can they honestly claim they have a right to it? It seems to me the govn is playing favorites and not doing its job in researching applications.

    I disagree that it is good business to have so much patent and copyright nonsense. It decimates innovation, and this is an industry that thrives on innovation. Business used to be about developing and providing products, not just about money.

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    Upon closer examination, it seems that it mainly applies to a feed that pulls content from more than one source and algorithmically orders it, rather than displaying it reverse-chronologically; so Twitter is safe.

    However, I still believe that the patent is unwarranted. Facebook is by no means the first to do something of this sort, and it certainly shouldn’t be the last. I have long wished for an RSS reader that would pull-in a large collection of feeds, including those of social networking profiles, and mash them up via a tunable sorting algorithm, enabling me to parse through the day’s news quicker. Facebook is not that, and their patent could conceivably cause issue for someone developing something along those lines.

    Anyway, the specifics of the patent matter little. Facebook now has what equates to a legal cudgel. They can threaten to sue individuals and small startups that may or may not actually be infringing on the dubious patent, and most of them will bend to Facebook’s will to avoid expensive legal fees.

    This patent stifles innovation and should not have been granted in the first place. Here’s hoping that a company with prior art will lodge a complaint with the USPTO.

  • http://answerguy.com Jeff Yablon

    IMHO, it ultimately gets thrown out, or at least fails to be applied in a meaningful way.

    That opinion, gaining traction among many interested in the topic, is here, by the way:


  • http://loopswoopandpull.com Matt deCourcelle

    It’s just an application for now. If it issues, I will be surprised.

  • Jake

    It doesn’t get thrown out without a lot of money wasted on lawyers. It also acts as a threat to shut down small competitors with a simple form letter. And it might not be thrown out at all.