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September 16, 2006 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Friendster awarded patent on social networking.
posted by delmoi (47 comments total)

 
Friendster rocks!
posted by watercressprincess at 3:42 PM on September 16, 2006


*cringe*
posted by whatnot at 3:45 PM on September 16, 2006


This will end well.
posted by fixedgear at 3:47 PM on September 16, 2006


I dream that somehow this causes the collapse of myspace.

A man can dream.
posted by mulligan at 3:52 PM on September 16, 2006


Hoo boy...
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:53 PM on September 16, 2006


yeah...myspace is so unoriginal...
posted by watercressprincess at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2006


But, what will be the effect on the larger arena of "social networking?" I mean by that the tagging and commenting sites like del.icio.us and flickr. Not to mention metafilter?
posted by mmahaffie at 4:00 PM on September 16, 2006


That's legalized blackmail, only now its a lot more evident
posted by elpapacito at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2006


The effect on metafilter?
Well, let's have a look at the broadest claim, namely claim 1:

"1. In a computer system including a server computer and a database of registered users that stores for each registered user, a user ID of the registered user and a set of user IDs of registered users who are directly connected to the registered user, a method for connecting a first registered user to a second registered user through one or more other registered users, the method comprising the steps of: setting a maximum degree of separation (Nmax) of at least two that is allowed for connecting any two registered users, wherein two registered users who are directly connected are deemed to be separated by one degree of separation and two registered users who are connected through no less than one other registered user are deemed to be separated by two degrees of separation and two registered users who are connected through no less than N other registered users are deemed to be separated by N+1 degrees of separation; searching for the user ID of the second registered user in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are less than Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, and not in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are greater than or equal to Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, until the user ID of the second registered user is found in one of the searched sets; and connecting the first registered user to the second registered user if the user ID of the second registered user is found in one of the searched sets, wherein the method limits the searching of the second registered user in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are less than Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, such that the first registered user and the second registered user who are separated by more than Nmax degrees of separation are not found and connected."

I don't think this has anything to do with metafilter. The Mefi setup does not involve any "setting a maximum degree of separation...", I think. There's also no "searching for the user ID of the second registered user...", etc.
Also, I don't think this is a very broad claim, just looking at the length it.
posted by sour cream at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2006


Which part exactly is blackmail, elpapacito?
posted by sour cream at 4:09 PM on September 16, 2006


sourcream: the part in which, if you want to use a particular "technology" that was neither invented nor researched, but only patented, you need to pay people good money.
posted by elpapacito at 4:22 PM on September 16, 2006


great summary of how Friendster dropped the ball despite being the first in the field. A valuable article for this part too:

"Friendster President Kent Lindstrom told RedHerring.com. “We’ll do what we can to protect our intellectual property" [...] Mr. Lindstrom said that Kleiner Perkins had encouraged Friendster to file patents when it funded the company in 2003. The approved patent came as a surprise. "Frankly we’d almost forgotten about it,” Mr. Lindstrom said.

oy, what a president! And really, there's no excuse for slow load times anymore, really...unclog those tubes, Lindstrom...
posted by rmm at 4:31 PM on September 16, 2006


That's legalized blackmail, only now its a lot more evident

Did you actually read the article at all?

"It’s way too early to say" whether the company would pursue licenses and litigation from its competitors, Friendster President Kent Lindstrom told RedHerring.com. "We’ll do what we can to protect our intellectual property."

(...)

Mr. Lindstrom said that Kleiner Perkins had encouraged Friendster to file patents when it funded the company in 2003. Another eleven patents are in the pipeline.

The approved patent came as a surprise. "Frankly we’d almost forgotten about it," Mr. Lindstrom said.


I wouldn't exactly characterize Friendster's stance as predatory. If and when they actually start suing people, feel free to raise the red flag.
posted by chrominance at 4:35 PM on September 16, 2006


NYTimes has an interesting article on Patent Trolls today and how Audible.com stuck up against one. Unfortunately the link is behind a paywall.
posted by yeti at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2006


As hilarious as it would be to see MySpace shut down, it wouldn't happen under this patent, would it? There doesn't need to be "certain degrees of seperation" to add someone as far as I know.
posted by liquorice at 4:41 PM on September 16, 2006


Friendster is now planning to re-address the U.S. market, where it currently has 1 million to 2 million users.

They can't figure out if they're missing a million users or not?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:42 PM on September 16, 2006


Friendster, flush with $10M infusion, says it's near another key patent.
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on September 16, 2006


Even if Friendster did decide to pursue litigation against Myspace, and had a case and a good chance of winning, I don’t see how that would result in Myspace’s demise. Wouldn’t New Corp. use their vast, vast resources to settle the case, or purchase Friendster?
posted by tepidmonkey at 4:50 PM on September 16, 2006


Oops. “News Corp.”
posted by tepidmonkey at 4:51 PM on September 16, 2006


"Patent lawsuits have become a flashpoint for the tech sector in recent years. Critics charge that plaintiffs in such cases are often resting their claims on overly broad wording or are simply out to make a fast buck through the court system rather than by actually creating a useful technology.

Initial concern over the Friendster patent did subside somewhat as people began to look a little farther back in time. The now-defunct network Six Degrees had received its own social-networking patent in 2001, on a request filed in 1997--a half-decade before Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams requested his.

Friendster's patent, unlike the broader one from Six Degrees, focuses on a particular search method, another possible out for any potential defendant.

'My understanding is that MySpace doesn't have this search feature,' said Chuck Miller, a patent attorney at Banner & Witcoff. 'The Friendster patent doesn't cover the whole online system for meeting people. The scope of the patent is limited to the online search that involves the maximum degree of separation and the people that fall within that category.'

The Six Degrees patent, which is cited at the top of the Friendster patent, was analyzed as part of Friendster's patenting process, Miller said. Now owned by a mildly successful network called Tribe, it covers a system for establishing relationships that involves e-mail, and it also includes related hardware.

'People often focus on the title of a patent,' he said. 'They think the patent covers something broader than it does.'"

[CNET News.com | August 1, 2006]
posted by ericb at 4:52 PM on September 16, 2006


great summary of how Friendster dropped the ball despite being the first in the field
"'Just because you're a pioneer doesn't mean you have the best product,' said Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research.

'Friendster grew too fast,' Li said. 'They had this great profile page, but that was it, whereas MySpace kept adding features and expanding the core culture network.'"
posted by ericb at 4:54 PM on September 16, 2006



I'm going to patent patenting ideas. All of them.

Suck it. U owez me teh money.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 4:56 PM on September 16, 2006


chrominance writes "If and when they actually start suing people, feel free to raise the red flag"

I hope you are getting paid for defending Friendster, but I guess you will not , because nobody is attacking them, except in your head.
posted by elpapacito at 4:58 PM on September 16, 2006


Metafilter's ability to pull bitter arguments out of thin air will never cease to amaze me.

But in the spirit of the occasion, FUCK YOU BOTH! YOU ARE WRONG AND I HATE YOU AND WE ARE ENEMIES FOREVER.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:32 PM on September 16, 2006


The comb-over is patented.

Using a laser pointer to play with kitty is patented.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 5:53 PM on September 16, 2006


Bite me, fuckers. I'm patenting antisocial networking.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:58 PM on September 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


"The approved patent came as a surprise. "Frankly we’d almost forgotten about it,”"

I'm sure their lawyers won't forget about it. We can only wait and see.
posted by drstein at 6:30 PM on September 16, 2006


Actually, I don't think myspace uses that 'degrees of seperation' stuff, everyone is toms friend, and if they're not there is no diffrence.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on September 16, 2006


Metafilter: pedant patent pending
posted by furtive at 6:51 PM on September 16, 2006


What really burns me are all the obvious patents that are being allowed.

I implemented a hypertext navigation tool in 1989 that I'll bet has near-identical functionality and design to several patents that have been registered this past half-decade or so for web technologies.

If only I'd known. And, I suppose, if only the patent system had been as dysfunctional and stupid as it is today.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on September 16, 2006


"everyone is toms friend, and if they're not there is no diffrence..."


That was my first irritation with myspace... it rendered the "so-and-so is in your extended network" completely useless and I didn't even want him as my friend (unlike most of the teenagers there, I like actually knowing the people on my list).
posted by artifarce at 7:13 PM on September 16, 2006


elpapacito : "I hope you are getting paid for defending Friendster, but I guess you will not , because nobody is attacking them, except in your head."

Eh? You accused them of blackmail.
posted by Bugbread at 7:54 PM on September 16, 2006


They can't figure out if they're missing a million users or not?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:42 PM PST on September 16 [+] [!]


Heh. Maybe they're trying to account for all the people who signed up for accounts, but haven't necessarily been using them in some time.
posted by Stauf at 8:04 PM on September 16, 2006


artifarce: You can remove Tom from your friend's list. It's not that hard.
posted by liquorice at 8:09 PM on September 16, 2006


(unlike most of the teenagers there, I like actually knowing the people on my list).
posted by artifarce at 7:13 PM PST on September 16 [+] [!]


Don't you know MySpace is a contest? Whoever has the most friends wins the internet.
posted by Stauf at 8:26 PM on September 16, 2006


Personally, I feel anything related to the web shouldn't be eligable for patent. Especially if its just taking an existing "technology" (shopping cart? Pu-leeze) and making it web ready.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:25 PM on September 16, 2006


I have documented prior art on online social networks dating back to at least October 1997 with my "Friend of a Friend Finder" project at the MIT Media Lab. I haven't read the Friendster or Six Degrees patents and can't comment on what overlap there might be, but if someone is seriously worried about these patents I'd be happy to dig up some old research notes to help them.

Here's some documentation of my work I was able to find quickly.
posted by Nelson at 12:07 AM on September 17, 2006


I have documented prior art on online social networks dating back to at least October 1997

Just think. If *you'd* applied for a patent, you'd be quids-in today.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:41 AM on September 17, 2006


I hope you are getting paid for defending Friendster, but I guess you will not , because nobody is attacking them, except in your head.

Hey man, my head's a pretty awesome place to be. Bumpin' beats 24/7, and all the jello shooters you can... uh, eat? drink? suck?

Not affiliated with Friendster, though. And you did say "blackmail." Anyways, I really do think this will all amount to nothing. Myspace isn't going anywhere, and if Friendster tries to sue they'll immediately lose what little capital they have left in the eyes of internet users, making any victory pyrrhic. Very likely the big players like Myspace, should they be targeted, will either fight the lawsuit or settle like Apple did when it was targeted by a patent lawsuit from Creative.

As for the general phenomenon to patent everything under the sun, it's not my favourite thing in the world either. But I do think there are slightly more serious concerns regarding patents than one failed social networking app suing the pants off larger, more successful social networking apps.
posted by chrominance at 1:30 AM on September 17, 2006


Eh? You accused them of blackmail.

bug , you may be perusing mind altering substance and not be aware of it. Really. I never accused Friendster of anything, except maybe in a couple person brains. I told awarding patent to social networking is a form of legalized blackmailing, because it allows the recipient to exercise a demand that, if not legalized, would probably be found to be a form of parasitic extortion, even worse then domain squatting. Maybe some people are in denial about negative effects happening under legal blessing, I guess.

Just because it is legal that doesn't imply it make sense, it is good for many or not bad for many and that there isn't a better way to handle the situation.
posted by elpapacito at 2:13 AM on September 17, 2006


Ops i didn't read chrom comeback

chrominance writes "if Friendster tries to sue they'll immediately lose what little capital they have left in the eyes of internet users, making any victory pyrrhic."

You think ? Meh, my guess is that an happy camper remains an happy camper unless it is made unhappy....doubt Friendster claiming legal rights on a patent apparently legally awarded would solicit outrage among many ordinary joes, more more worried about terrst.

And you did say "blackmail."

And you too, so what ?

chrominance writes "Very likely the big players like Myspace, should they be targeted, will either fight the lawsuit or settle like Apple"

And the others, no matter how good their work, should sell it off for dimes cause they don't have the financial strengh to even ponder opposition. Umh good system :) ..for what, protecting financial concentration or invention ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:22 AM on September 17, 2006


Just think. If *you'd* applied for a patent, you'd be quids-in today.

Well, no, not really. First, because most patents are worthless. Second, because as an MIT student I wouldn't have owned the patent anyway, MIT would have. And their IP office has a mixed record when it comes to allowing students to profit off their IP.

The entire world patent system is deeply broken.
posted by Nelson at 3:09 AM on September 17, 2006


Well, no, not really. First, because most patents are worthless.

But you could have always sold it to one of those patent blackmail firms who go around harrassing people. That's gotta be worth the in high five figures. ;-)

(I'm joking here -- as was my original post.)

Second, because as an MIT student I wouldn't have owned the patent anyway, MIT would have. And their IP office has a mixed record when it comes to allowing students to profit off their IP.

This sucks though. You pay them fees to educate you, and they steal the fruit of your intellectual labour? How the hell do they justify that? I can see that it's reasonable to grab this stuff from your employees, but your students are your *customers*. You work for them, they don't work for you.

Though I suppose if you were a grad student and the school was funding your education that might be a bit less unreasonable, but even so.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:44 AM on September 17, 2006


I'm going to patent being a troll and then rack up the royalties. Or maybe dios already has that patent.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:38 AM on September 17, 2006


This sucks though. You pay them fees to educate you, and they steal the fruit of your intellectual labour?

Well, it's a university and I assume he was being paid at the time (rather then it being a student project). I'm not sure about the IP of pure student projects (i.e. class assignments) but most of these issues revolve around research projects done through a university and paid for with grant money.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 AM on September 17, 2006


Just for the record, and it's kinda MeTa, but I've always tried to read elpapacito's comments with a large tub of salt. I don't think it's outright trolling because I think he thinks he's being clever, but if you read through his comments over time they're all vitirol/snark/rudeness dressed up like they're topical. I read his first few lines here and just stuck them in that tub of salt.

Patent law has to change, it just no longer makes sense in a software enviroment. I can't imagine Murdoch's at all worried.
posted by cavalier at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2006


I was a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab when I did my 1997 social networking work. I think it sucks that they owned all my IP too, but they were paying me and educating me towards a PhD so it was a two way exchange. I never filed any patents while at MIT and they were quite open to me publishing my work on the web and my software as open source, so I don't really have any personal cause for complaint.
posted by Nelson at 9:42 AM on September 17, 2006


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