Facebook Timeline and Patent Application

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Added – 2-26-2010 – for an updated list of granted and pending Facebook patents, see my post from January 24th, 2010, Facebook Patent Filings, which includes the Facebook News feed patent as a patent application, with some commentary in the comments about the impact (or lack thereof) that it might have upon other social networks.

Mark Zuckerberg started one of the most short-lived and controversial web businesses ever to come out of Harvard.

And then he started Facebook, which rocketed to success, and is continuing to grow at a very fast pace, and has weathered some controversy of its own. Interestingly, the privacy failings of the earlier business seems to have lead to the success of Facebook.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is one of the listed inventors on a patent application that was published today on Systems and methods for social mapping (US Patent Application 20070192299). Aaron Sitting is the other inventor listed on the document, which was originally filed on December 14, 2006.

The process described in the document itself isn’t complex, enabling someone who is a member to identify someone else whom they would like to establish a relationship with, and contact them. The person being contacted can respond, and request a confirmation that they are known (or not known) to each other in some manner.

Being a little underwhelmed by the patent filing, I decided to take a look at the history of Facebook to see why it might have some importance.


November 4, 2003 – Hot or Not? Website Briefly Judges Looks

November 19, 2003 – Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board

December 9, 2003 – College Inches Toward Campus-Wide Facebook

The development of a campus-wide facebook had previously been stalled by privacy concerns, many of which came to a head last month when Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 was accused of breaching security and violating copyrights and individual privacy.

Zuckerberg created a website, “www.facemash.com”, that used identification pictures obtained illicitly from House-based facebooks to rate students’ attractiveness.


February 9, 2004 – Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website

I wrote above that the confirmation aspect of Facebook in the patent filing wasn’t impressive, but it seems that it really is a key aspect of the success of Facebook:

“There are pretty intensive privacy options,” he said. “You can limit who can see your information, if you only want current students to see your information, or people in your year, in your house, in your classes. You can limit a search so that only a friend or a friend of a friend can look you up. People have very good control over who can see their information.”

February 18, 2004 – Harvard Bonds on Facebook Website
Over 4,300 subscribers schmooze on new student-made website

March 1, 2004 – Facebook Expands Beyond Harvard
Stanford, Columbia join network, with Yale next in line

March 9, 2004 – Columbia Rebukes thefacebook.com
Members of Columbia’s rival online site CUcommunity launch “Google bomb” at Harvard

March 15, 2004 – CrimsonPartiesHookupExchange.com

Thefacebook.com may be great now (it’s one of the few projects I’ve listed here that I see any real future for), but even it will collapse under its own weight if, come the fall, no one is compelled to update their course lists or the class of 2008 doesn’t get involved.

All there is to do at this point is to let natural selection run its course, and in that vein, I await with eager anticipation the day when we’ll know for certain whether the “poke” is the next great form of social interaction or simply a dying relic of 2004-dom.

May 7, 2004 – Online Facebook Solicits New Ads
With expansion in full swing, owners say site is not for sale

March 18, 2004 – Sociology of thefacebook.com

May 28, 2004 – Online Facebooks Duel Over Tangled Web of Authorship

June 10, 2004 – Internet Boosts Social Scene

Launched to the campus Feb. 4, thefacebook.com has since expanded to 34 college campuses, including all eight Ivy League schools. Currently, it boasts over 150,000 members nationwide and includes self-registered profiles for over 90 percent of the undergraduate student body.

September 13, 2004 – Lawsuit Threatens To Close Facebook

September 15, 2004 – Facing Off Over The Facebook
ConnectU’s unfortunate lawsuit ignores the lack of originality in both sites

September 21, 2004 – College Launches Official Facebook

October 8, 2004 – Find new friends at the facebook and get connected! (dead link)

December 3, 2004 – New Facebook Groups Abound

December 8, 2004 – Facebook adds Sacramento State (Link no longer available)

Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University and currently is available to over 300 schools and one million users. Zuckerberg does not view the site as an online community, but as a directory that reinforces an established physical community. He also says that the site is a mirror image of what exists in real life.


February 7, 2005 – Facebook Cancels Beirut Tourney

February 24, 2005 – Business, Casual.

February 24, 2005 – How They Got Here

February 24, 2005 – The Friendometer?

But on a wider scale, Ward also thinks that TheFacebook, besides serving as a research tool, could also change the nature of friendships among its participants. According to him, that might be TheFacebook’s most intriguing legacy.

“There will be interest in finding out how TheFacebook changes social interactions,” he says, “It’s not just a research tool, it’s an intervention.”

April 8, 2005 – Alum Finds Facebook Bug
Public could access members’ personal information

May 27, 2005 – Firm Invests $13M in Facebook

June 7, 2005 – Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06: The whiz behind thefacebook.com

“In the aftermath of [Facemash]…I was just thinking to myself—not only is a facebook something that would be very useful, but it’s something that I don’t want to have on my name as being the person who postponed it,” he explains.

Zuckerberg had already designed a site called Coursematch earlier in the year, which allowed students to see other students who were enrolled in their classes. The idea found later found its way into thefacebook.com, along with a host of others that he had been playing around with.

September 16, 2005 – Facebook.com Gets Facelift, New Features
Fresh add-ons include high school version and personal photo pages

October 25, 2005 – Smile! You’re on Facebook!
Photo feature fuels traffic; Zuckerberg brainchild now 10th most popular site on net

November 1, 2005 – Zuckerberg To Leave Harvard Indefinitely

November 22, 2005 – ConnectU Seeks Crimson Records


March 30, 2006 – Report: Facebook Looks for a $2 Billion Bidder

May 4, 2006 – Facebook Open to Cubicle Crowd

Members of the professional networks, like all other Facebook members, will appear in search results, but Facebook’s privacy controls limit users to viewing profiles of their friends or members of their networks.

September 11, 2006 – Facebook.com News Feeds Cause Dissent

September 13, 2006 – Cyber Network Causes New Worries
Seeking growth, Facebook.com to open to anyone online

September 13, 2006 – T.M.I.

Like me, Facebook founder Mark E. Zuckerberg, formerly of the Class of 2006, was probably a little shell-shocked when, over the course of the next two days, his company received half a million complaints about the new features.

He quickly backtracked, issuing a mass apology and promising to implement better privacy controls. Facebook “really messed this one up,” he wrote, when it ignored the part of their mission, “helping people share information with the people they want to share it with.”

September 22, 2006 – Facebook is Poked by Corporate Friends
Yahoo! comes a-calling—But are they in a relationship? It’s complicated.


February 15, 2007 – Chinese Web Site Rips Off Facebook
Law professor says Xiaonei.com infringes on Facebook’s copyright

July 13, 2007 – Facebook in Litigation 2.0

July 20, 2007 – Facebook makes Parakey its first acquisition

Mr Ross said: “Facebook Platform is finally making it easy to share experiences with friends and family over the web, a goal Joe and I have worked toward for years.”

July 27, 2007 – For Now, Facebook Foes Continue Fight Against Site

August 16, 2007 – Google gags Facebook code leaker

August 15, 2007 – Biggest Facebook App Acquisition Yet: TripAdvisor Acquires Where I’ve Been for Reported $3 Million

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16 thoughts on “Facebook Timeline and Patent Application”

  1. I wish I was the one that invested $13m back in 2004. Thats gotta be worth at least $400 million today. What an investment!

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  3. A fascinating look back – not that it IS that long ago. It’s incredible how quickly Zuckerberg has gone from nothing to sitting on potentially millions of dollars

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  5. Hi Pat,

    It appears that someone from the American Foundation for the Blind approached Facebook about 2 1/2 years ago, and asked them to address accessibility issues on Facebook. A blog post during April, 2009, from Carl R. Augusto, President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), tells us something about the collaboration:

    Making Facebook Accessible for Everyone

    I also found this post from AFB Communications, dated April 2008, which describes some of the interactions between the AFB and Facebook:

    Thanks, Facebook!, which addresses some issues like the CAPTCHA that facebook was using. There’s mention of a timeline there in implementing new approaches at Facebook concerning accessibility.

    Facebook also has a help page now, with information on Accessibilty and Assistive Technology.

  6. Hi Humbleagent,

    I don’t believe that many of the articles I’ve read on that Facebook patent or that Wikipedia talk section does a very good job of describing what the claims of that Facebook patent actually cover. The patent covers Facebook automated activity updates, such as “John added a photo to his Gallery,” or “Bob is now friends with James,” as well as how those updates are presented, and whom they are shared with on Facebook.

  7. Hi Bill Slawski,

    I have read the patent myself and I think you are correct but the problem is that the inventor of this patent has not properly disclosed the claimed invention. In fact, the teachings do NOT teach the claimed invention. Its like trying to patent a computer but teaches how to use a mobile phone.

    I do not believe that a patent like this can get awarded under the European patent system. Even under the current US patent law this patent can get invalidated easily….

  8. Hi Johnny,

    I didn’t write this post to question or explore the validity of this patent filing, or whether or not it would be awarded under the European patent system as much as I did to see what it tells us about Facebook, and their concerns in running their social network, and how privacy is an issue that is one of the greatest of those concerns.

  9. Very interesting read. Zuckerberg will no doubt go down in history for developing Facebook. I, however, have never used it for either my personal life or business. Sounds like Facebook, along with other social bookmarking sites, are necessary to become successful though.

  10. Hi Neal,

    I’m not sure that using Facebook or other social bookmarking sites are necessary to use to become successful, but it doesn’t hurt for most businesses and organizations to come up with marketing plans that at least consider whether or not they want to try to use services like those.

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