From Amazon’s One Click patent to the myriad of other absolutely stupid patents that seems to letter the online world none of them come even close as to the one just granted to Facebook.
It appears that back in 2006; which by the way is prior to the launch of Twitter, Facebook applied for a patent to cover “Dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network” that has been granted. Additionally the patent was worded in a very general fashion which means that the interpretation of that patent is wide open.
As Nick O’Neill points out on All Facebook the implications of this patent are far ranging and its implications on the web is incredibly significant. Especially when you add in the additional areas covered by the patent which include: feed filters, feed advertising, searching the feed.
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 is exactly this type of patent when granted that throws an instant chill over any web innovation especially when it is a company like Facebook that holds the patent. This is also exactly the reason why we have to seriously reconsider the whole aspect of software, and to a lesser degree hardware, patents. For a single company to hold a patent over the very basis of how the web increasingly communicates is disastrous.
The implications of tis patent being granted to Facebook can only be guessed at for the moment, and yes maybe Facebook will be a benevolent dictator and let everyone play along but the fact is they hold a patent on a method of core web communications. Do we really think that at some point they won’t be using as a big stick on the smaller kids on the block?