Will Facebook's Newsfeed Patent Stifle Competition?

Mark Zuckerberg scores a big win--but how big?

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Facebook has been awarded a patent for its Newsfeed--an innovation that continually displays updates and information about users' friends. The patent may allow Facebook to challenge other social networking sites in court who use similar technologies, causing tech pundits to worry that competition and consumer choice may suffer. Still, others argue that the patent is limited and won't have any major effect.

  • A Perversion of the Patent System, writes Mike Masnick at Techdirt: "Now we have a case where one company may have the right to prevent others from doing what it makes perfect sense for them to do. That's not what the patent system was designed to do at all. A patent like this should never have been approved at all, as it serves no useful purpose in 'promoting the progress' and seems to go against everything that the patent system is supposed to do."
  • This Is a Very Big Deal, writes Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb: "LinkedIn contacts making new connections or changing their jobs would be the most immediate example that comes to mind. If offering a stream of updates of the non-status messages of friends is something Facebook alone could deliver, that would be a major loss for the rest of the social web."
  • 'Stop Freaking Out,' writes Henry Blodget at Business Insider: "Here's what it means: At worst, these companies will have to pay Facebook some money ... Google, you may recall, was eventually found to be violating Overture's patent on bidding for keyword search terms. Unlike Facebook's newsfeed, this was Google's primary business and revenue stream. And the situation was eventually resolved not with a dissolution of Google but with a meaningful (but not debilitating) payment to Yahoo, which had acquired Overture."
  • This Patent Is Limited, writes Nick O'Neill at All Facebook: "It appears that this patent surrounds implicit actions. This means status updates, which is what Twitter is based on, are not part of this patent. Instead, this is about stories about the actions of a user’s friends. While still significant, the implications for competing social networks may be less substantial."
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