Facebook Secures News Feed Patent

Will Facebook Secure a Social Media Monopoly?
News of Facebook being awarded the patent for news feed technology earlier this week is understandably causing much speculation regarding its possible implications for other social networking giants such as Twitter, Myspace and the brand new Google Buzz. Although at this stage speculation is all it remains to be. So far Facebook have remained schtum regarding whether they’ll be taking action against other social networks infringing on the patent. However, they have released a small general statement:

“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. We’re humbled by the growth and adoption of News Feed over time and pleased with being awarded the patent.” Mashable

But for how long will they remain humbled, I wonder? Can we really see Facebook simply adopting a stance of contentment; happy with merely stamping their name on the title of News Feed Inventor?! Doubtful. Or will they, as many suspect, be sueing all who infringe the technology ? With the extremely successful launch of Google Buzz only last week- a network that’s been said to merge the most popular features of Facebook and Twitter- is there a chance that Facebook will use the patent as a tool to stand in the path of their newest rival?

The patent in question is awarded to Facebook specifically for “Dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network”. About being the operative word according to Allfacebook.com, who say this rules out legal action against networks that only use status update feeds, i.e. Twitter.

So this gets Twitter out of the firing line, but what about Google Buzz? The network has already been criticised regarding issues with privacy, namely the fact that it works alongside its user’s Gmail accounts, giving a large number of people free access to private email addresses. Its this, and it’s timing that highlights a rather uncanny parallel to the “Invasion of Privacy” headlines that were (ironically) doing the rounds when Facebook first introduced us to the even then- contoversial News Feed? Despite it now being a popular feature on most if not all social networking sites, when it first launched in 2006 it was thought by some media experts that, “If Facebook is broadcasting your every move to your friends, you might be more cautious about using the site.” (Mashable.com)

Interestingly, the sceptics also asked- “Will users poke around less now they have all the updates on one page?”, and, “Perhaps the feeds will entice them to visit more pages, and become addicted to the stream of updates?” Despite our knowing that the latter is very true of today’s social networking culture, the point is, that as little as four years ago we didn’t have the foggiest which way it was all going to go. Until Twitter exploded that is!

We all know that out of all sites people spend the longest on Facebook but where’s it all heading next? Can it get even more popular? What’s going to be the next revelation in social networking technology? And most importantly how big an impact is Facebook’s rights to the News Feed going to have on the shaping of things to come? Who will it affect the most? And how?