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Facebook was awarded a patent for its core news feed, raising concerns among some bloggers that the company will actively defend its intellectual property and threaten startups that also have feed-like features.
Some bloggers argue that this opens the possibility that Facebook will go after other startups that also have news feeds. But it’s hard to assume this will happen because from a strategic perspective, Facebook would do better by prioritizing development on its advertising, metrics and payments offerings than by pursuing a more litigious strategy of suing other companies.
Plus it would foster a lot of ill will with the broader developer community, which the company relies on to develop either applications on the platform or Facebook-enhanced features on outside web sites.
The patent, which was found by AllFacebook, was filed in 2006.
Officially, this is what the news feed patent covers:
“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.”
Initially protested by 10 percent of the social network’s user base, the news feed has become a core part of Facebook’s experience by distributing shared content, status updates and profile changes through social groups.
“The launch of News Feed in 2006 was a pivotal moment in Facebook’s history and changed the way millions of people consumed and discovered information on the site,” said spokesperson Jaime Schopflin. “We’re humbled by the growth and adoption of News Feed over time and pleased with being awarded the patent.” The company hasn’t yet responded to questions on whether it will actively defend the patent.
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