Helping people fall in love, easier searching in social networks, and storing XML are the subjects of some newly published documents at the US Patent and Trademark office assigned to Yahoo!
Yesterday, a patent on preprocessing some of the connections between members of a social network was granted for Yahoo!
Method and system for finding related nodes in a social network
Inventors: Varun Vasudev and Bipin Suresh
Assigned to Yahoo! Inc.
US Patent 7,016,307
Granted March 21, 2006
Filed: March 11, 2004
A process for reducing the resources employed in real time to communicate a message between related nodes that are separated by multiple degrees of separation in a social network. At least a portion of the shortest path for the multiple degrees of separation between at least two related nodes in a social network is determined out of band prior to the initiation of a process to communicate between the related nodes. By pre-processing at least a portion of the degrees of separation for the shortest path between the nodes, the actual resources employed in real time to calculate the entire shortest path can be reduced. Typically, approximately fifty percent or more of the shortest paths for the degrees of separation between related nodes in the social network are pre-processed. Since the amount of resources for determining the shortest path for each degree of separation can exponentially increase with each degree, the pre-processing of a portion of the degrees of separation along a shortest path can significantly reduce the resources required in real time to complete the determination of the shortest path. Also, if a common intermediate node is identified in the pre-processing of the shortest paths for two nodes in the social network, the intermediate shortest paths can be stored for reuse as a complete shortest path between these two nodes.
Add to that a handful of patent applications published for Yahoo! on dating last week, and it looks like the company is working to bring everyone a little closer together:
My favorite part of those comes from the “background of the invention” section in each, which is the same for all of them:
 Dating services are now so popular that by at least one study for the given year, over twenty-six percent of all Internet users in the United States have visited a personals website. Part of the reason may be that online dating may appear to be a natural extension of where people are at this point in time. That is, many people today, have personal computers, or at least access to a personal computer. Moreover, virtually everyone wants to fall in love. Thus, it is natural to merge these two things. As such, online dating services may appear as the world’s biggest singles bar. Except that it can be done in the privacy of one’s own home where time may be taken to read about another person and get to know them through email, phone, and the like, before ever going on an actual date.
 Thus, there has been a flurry of companies launching services that help people to meet and develop a personal relationship. Many of these companies, however, are struggling with developing additional services that will build customer loyalty. Without the ability to extend the value of the online dating experience, online dating may lose its appeal. Therefore, it is with respect to these considerations and others that the present invention has been made.
In another patent application from last week, Yahoo! also considers a way of storing XML documents to make it faster and easier to search through those:
Inventor: Chetan Narsude
Assigned to: Yahoo! Inc.
US Patent Application 20060059184
Published March 16, 2006
Filed: November 16, 2004
A document management system manages a large number of XML documents on an efficient and cost-effective basis. Storage requirements are reduced, because compressed versions of the XML documents, which are much smaller in size than the XML documents themselves, are used when processing queries. Processing requirements are reduced, because parsing is not a required step when processing queries. Instead of parsing, the query is processed by unpacking the compressed version of the document identified in the query, node by node until enough information has been decoded to satisfy the query. Processing speed is improved in two ways. First, unpacking as carried out according to the invention is a much faster process than parsing. Second, the entire document need not be unpacked.