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Friendster Patents Social Networking


Wow. Friendster Patents Social Networking - breaking news from Red Herring. What a strange thing to patent. Beyond the buzz of irate people who hate Friendster, I am stuck sifting through the blogosphere trying to find insights on “what’s next”.

Digging through the posts and comments, I found one person who noted that in order to infringe on their patent, ALL parts of the patent need to be duplicated. A key component in the patent is the way people connect.

From US Patent 7,069,308 

A method and apparatus for calculating, displaying and acting upon relationships in a social network is described. A computer system collects descriptive data about various individuals and allows those individuals to indicate other individuals with whom they have a personal relationship. The descriptive data and the relationship data are integrated and processed to reveal the series of social relationships connecting any two individuals within a social network. The pathways connecting any two individuals can be displayed. Further, the social network itself can be displayed to any number of degrees of separation. A user of the system can determine the optimal relationship path (i.e., contact pathway) to reach desired individuals. A communications tool allows individuals in the system to be introduced (or introduce themselves) and initiate direct communication.

The reason this is so important to me is that a big part of the ultimate goal of is to build a community component. I had initially intended to connect members via a six degrees of separation way of introduction. Now it seems as though I will have to rework that plan.

Great questions being raised in the blogosphere include:

  • Can Friendster really lay claim to inventing online social networking?
  • Is the US Patent process really serving the needs of our in-person social networks by granting such a broad-based and general patent?
  • What will Friendster do with this newly obtained patent? Will they use it offensively - going after their competitors, or defensively, as a way to boost their value as a company?
  • And my own question to add is in the end, if Friendster is able to elimiate their competitors, what happens to the real people behind these already established social networks? Does anyone really think that just because the technology is now “owned”, that these people will stop socializing?

One of the major concerns I have been reading about today is in regards to how much this patent will likely hamper innovation. I see it as the exact opposite. With no alterative, people WILL find new ways to interact online. People will always find ways to connect with each other - it’s in our evolutionary blood. Perhaps Friendster is going to make it a bit more difficult to get the new networks established, but I have no doubt they WILL be established.

For now, I am simply left to ponder my own new way to connect individuals who have a passion for self help and helping each other. :)

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    On July 13th, 2006 at 9:45 pm, Susan Reynolds said:

    Woman are experienced at making connections off the grid and the blogosphere is as good a place as any to do that. From where I sit, if friendster wants to challenge us to take our network building underground we can oblige. It’s kind of laughable though, isn’t it?

    On July 14th, 2006 at 3:09 am, The Everyday Economist said:

    Enforcement will be costly. Very costly.

    Even a giant like Walmart backs down sometimes:

    And these are people who are actually commiting crimes. Enforcing patents is usually not worth it, and a tactic to drain money from other companies in the form of settlements. Little else comes from them (at least this sort of wish-wash patent)

    Mentions on other sites...

    1. Internet Marketing for Solopreneurs By Biana » Blog Archive » Friendster Patents Social Networking on July 13th, 2006 at 10:52 pm
    2. eMoms at Home » Blog Archive » More on the Friendster Patent on July 27th, 2006 at 10:59 am

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