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Posts Tagged ‘news feed’

What will Facebook do with its News Feed patent?

February 26th, 2010

This week Facebook was awarded the patent for the News Feed – a feature common to Facebook as well as other social networks such as Twitter and MySpace, and a number of social media apps and startups.

The patent refers to the method of displaying stories/news items relating to online activities to a predetermined set of viewers, and “assigning an order to the news items”. According to reports, the patent also covers the auto-generation of a user’s activity and the display of that to friends. That means the news updates you get when your friends upload videos and accept friend requests is covered by Facebook’s new patent.

It’s true that Facebook pioneered the News Feed technology back in 2006, and so on the face of it deserves to own the patent…but what does this mean for the rest of the social media industry? Facebook is currently the world’s largest social network, and so if it’s going down the road of seeking patents for its technology, this could really hamper innovation and progress within social media, and render networks such as Twitter useless.

It’s currently unclear what Facebook plans to do with this patent. It could take the hard line and pressure Twitter, MySpace, Google etc into taking down their News Feed features, or at the opposite end of the scale it could choose not to exercise its patent.

The reason why social media has evolved so quickly is all down to collaboration, the mashup of content and technology and the sharing of creativity. Patents are arguably not a good thing in this space, but what can we do to stop them?

At the moment this is primarily an industry story, but should Facebook choose to make use of the patent, it’s likely to reach the attention of a wider audience. Ultimately the power rests with individuals to stop Facebook from agressively patenting its technology – if the business becomes too commercial in its focus, it will lose popularity, and could suffer massively in terms of online PR.

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