What it means, exactly, isn’t clear. But what it could mean is trouble for social networking. Facebook has been granted a patent on the Newsfeed--the method it uses for “displaying a news feed in a social network environment.” A method which looks amazingly similar to something that all other social networking sites do.
The questions raised are: What does the patent describe? And what does the patent cover? From the patent’s abstract we learn this: “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.” Graphically, (from Figure 5 of the patent application), this looks like this:
Overall, it seems general enough to cover a lot of social networking activity, which could be a problem. A generous interpretation of the patent would give Facebook tremendous control over social networking.
While it is possible, according to Nick O’Neill at All Facebook, that the patent could be as significant as the original six degrees patent, he’s guessing it probably won’t be. While the patent seems to describe what takes place on Twitter, for example, O’Neill explains that 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.” Maybe too fine a distinction of us to appreciate, perhaps, but O’Neill says the distinction is significant and could mean a lessening the patent’s potential impact.
Life, it seems, is never fair for any developer. Just ask the gurus behind Valve's Steam service. For the past many years, Steam has existed as the dominant digital-download platform of choice for gamers worldwide. While a few improvements have been built into the actual application one uses to access the Steam service, the program in question has remained relatively unchanged in its design for a good chunk of its recent existence. Which, in itself, is a polite way to say that it's been ages since an actual upgrade brought a new look, feel, and functionality to the Steam client.
As I think of the many different "platforms" on the Internet, I'm reminded of just how closed-off the Steam application is for conventional tweaking. Some of this is mandatory--there's only so much Valve wants you to be able to access for fear of somehow disrupting Steam's security techniques and gaining access to the vault of unlocked, free-to-download titles. Take a moment to wipe the drool off your keyboard; I'll wait.
What's stopping Valve from incorporating other open architectures into its service, however? What about Web-wide login protocols? Authentication for third-party services that could offer spin-offs of Steam's built-in stats-tracking? Heck, what about some customized user interface support?
Some might say Steam is too big to be able to successfully navigate open-source and open frameworks. To that, I say hogwash: If Facebook can do it, so can Valve!
It's tough to ignore the success both Twitter and Facebook have had on the social networking scene, so it shouldn't come as much suprise that Google wants in on the action too. But rather than create a new service altogether, the search giant is planning on adding functionality to its existing Gmail service, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Citing "people familiar with the matter," the WSJ says Google will announce the new Gmail feature very soon, perhaps as early as this week. This feature, the WSJ reports, will be a module added to the Gmail screen that will stream updates from whoever a user chooses to connect with.
Sometime down the line, the module will also tap into a connection's YouTube video and Picasa photo accounts and share that content as well, but it's not clear if this will be announced at the get-go or not.
A happy belated birthday goes out to Facebook, the mega-social networking site which turned six years old yesterday. And sure we're a day late in sending along our birthday wishes, but with 400 million users, we probably would have been drowned out in the crowd anyway.
Facebook's rise in popularity during its six-year run is pretty remarkable. In addition to boasting 400 million users, market research firm Hitwise says that the social networking site is a lead news reader, right behind Google, Yahoo, and MSN search. It's no longer just about fun and games.
"Facebook could be a major disruptor to the News and Media category," Hitwise noted. "And with the Wall Street Journal already publishing content to Facebook, perhaps the social network can avoid the run-ins that Google has suffered recently with Rupert Murdoch. We will continue to watch this space. "
It will be interesting to see what the next six years bring.
You don't hear much about Silverlight these days, but rest assured, Microsoft is still hard at work on the speedy little flash competitor. Of course, a platform is only as powerful as its applications, and a new Silverlight Facebook client does a fantastic job of showcasing this power. The lightweight and lightening fast new interface works on both Mac's and PC's, and is a significant improvement to the look and feel of Facebook.
Created using the developer preview edition of Silverlight 4, the new Facebook client pretty much bypasses any need you would ever have to visit the full website. You can access your groups, friends list, inbox, and even upload / manage your photo galleries. It makes a great alternative for those who wish to get caught up with family and friends in peace, while conveniently doing away with those pesky ads.
Future versions are expected to strip away the Window chrome , and will allow you to quickly and easily import pictures from a digital camera directly into any photo gallery. To give the beta a spin, simply navigate on over to the landing page to install the new version of Silverlight. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments after the jump.
Facebook was reluctant to setup a payment platform in the past due to security, resources, and third-party competitors. However, that’s all out the window and they have got their sights set on the big bucks now that they’ve teamed up with Zynga, makers of Farmville and Mafia Wars.
Zynga’s games have hooked over 75 million monthly active users, with a third of those people online harvesting or “pulling jobs” on a daily basis. Facebook’s plan is to pull a 30% fee off every transaction made using the Facebook payment structure. The virtual goods market in the US alone is forecasted to reach $1.6 billion dollars in 2010. $835 million of that comes from social gaming products, such as those developed by Zynga.
It is unlikely Facebook needed another revenue stream, but they aren’t going to ignore the low hanging fruit dangling from the social gaming money tree.
It's difficult to envision a life without email. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Suffice, digital messaging is just a fact of geek life that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. Whether your inbox gets flooded with messages like the Nile during rainy season, or it's barren as one of those outback wastelands that Bear Grylls likes to visit, you probably aren't using your email client of choice to its fullest potential.
That's ok. Neither was I before undertaking the research for this week's open-source and freeware roundup. But now that I have seen the light, as it were, I would never go back to the ol' vanilla installations of Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail, or whatever one's particular email utility of choice happens to be. There are just too many interesting ways to tweak and alter the normal email experience to better enhance your ability to read, organize, and shuffle your messages.
That's kind of "the big point" of the roundup this week--making your email work better for you. Click the jump, and I'll show you five apps and utilities for taking your email processing to the next level!
According to market research firm comScore, Facebook now has more than twice as many U.S. users (111.9 million) than it did in 2008 (54.5 million). To put that into perspective, no other Web company since Google has been as successful as Facebook, which now earns about $2 billion in profit every quarter.
"Ever since it opened registration to the general public back in the fall of 2006, Facebook has seen considerable growth, so it's not like this story is new by any stretch of the imagination," comScore noted. "And yet, even in its native market, Facebook continues to add to its audience at an incredible rate... It now accounts for 7 percent of all time spent online in the U.S."
And it's not just the number of users that so impressed comScore, either. The research firm noted that Facebook manged to "grow substantially across nearly every performance metric," including total pages viewed, average visits per visitor, average minutes per visitor, and several more.
Before you fill out that loan application, you may want to take a peek at your Facebook profile, because even if you don't, there's a pretty good chance your lender will, a new report suggests.
According to CreditCards.com, creditors are tapping into your social networking circle to help determine your creditworthiness. One reason they do this is to look for discrepancies in the info you provide on the credit app versus what your online profile says.
"We use social chatter as a way to bring risk down. It's a wealth of information about a person," says Rob Garcia, senior director of product strategy, The Lending Club. "If a person says he lives in a different area than the one on the application, it could be a flag. But if it matches, it greatly increases confidence."
But what's scary is that lenders aren't just using your social networking profiles to verify information, they're also making a credit decision based, in part, on what you're doing online and who you're doing it with.
"When people have large networks, they get funded two to three times faster than without," says Garcia. "We notice that good credit people invite good credit people, bad invite bad."
Imagine logging into your Facebook account from you cell phone, and seeing a face that isn't yours. In fact, seeing an entire account, to which you have full access, that isn't yours. That’s what Candace Sawyer of East Point, Georgia saw when she logged into her Facebook account from her Nokia phone. And so to did her sister and mother. Sawyer’s unintended intrusion to the account of another Facebook user is suspected to be due to faulty network routing by her cell phone carrier, AT&T, which lost track of who she was.
It’s a bit of a bizarre thing, and not likely something that can be exploited. It is suspected that AT&T’s equipment was misconfigured, or its routing software was buggy, or some other technical error occurred that passed Sawyer off as another person to Facebook. AT&T suspects the problem was a “misdirected cookie.”
Luckily, the problem isn’t universal. The security breach is possible only on unencrypted web pages, those with http addresses. Secure web sites, which start with https, such as banks or e-commerce payment sites, are encrypted, which would prevent such misidentification from occurring. Facebook uses encryption on names and passwords, but after credentials are entered encryption is dropped.
Facebook says the problem is AT&T’s. AT&T isn’t talking much beyond saying the problem is minor and is being resolved. That doesn’t make comforting the fact that it doesn’t take a malicious person using sophisticated tools to hack your privacy. All it takes is a carrier that isn’t paying attention to details.